With football season kicking-off soon, office pools will likely be on the rise. Many employers recognize that during this time of year, office pools are very popular and may even foster office camaraderie. The popularity of fantasy football pools has grown significantly and many Web sites, such as espn.go.com and fantasyfootballpools.com, have programs to assist in developing pools. Nevertheless, office pools are considered illegal in many states if they involve betting real money. The risks for an employer sponsoring an office pool can be even greater. Therefore, to the extent employees are participating in office pools, employers should keep the following in mind:
- If office pools are illegal in your state or local community, they should not be sponsored, organized, run, endorsed, or encouraged by the employer. Employers also should not offer any contributions, incentives, or rewards for the pool, the participants, or the winners of office pools.
- If non-management employees are operating office pools, they should be advised that the pools must not be conducted for profit; the total amount collected should be paid out to participants/winners, with no one taking a fee.
- Office pools should be strictly for fun and to promote office camaraderie, and involve fairly insignificant amounts of money.
- Participation in office pools should be completely voluntary and employees should not feel pressured into participating. Office pool activity also should be kept separate from work, not disrupt other employees or negatively affect productivity.
- Office pool brackets or charts should not be openly displayed in the workplace, such as on walls or bulletin boards.
Before allowing office pools of any kind, employers should become familiar with the state and local laws in their jurisdiction to ensure compliance. If office pools are permissible, employers should nonetheless keep the above suggestions in mind and be sensitive to the fact that some employees may be offended by or uncomfortable with gambling of any kind.