Tag Archives: Arizona Office of Problem Gambling

March Madness

March Madness: Rules To Follow In The Office

March Making You Mad? March Madness: Rules To Follow In The Office

The football season is over — and there are probably a few business owners happy about it.


Some studies suggest that fantasy football costs American businesses $615 million in productivity per NFL week.

But, when one chapter ends, another begins — time for March Madness.

For many of us, March Madness is a rite of passage in the spring, a chance to build camaraderie with co-workers through office pools, a chance to re-connect with college friends during games, and a chance to indulge in a few chicken wings with the family. Just as with fantasy football, however, employers are getting more and more impatient with even the most efficient and talented employees spending work hours accessing gambling websites on company computers during March Madness, taking time to exchange money, trash talk the teams and other sometimes inappropriate behavior with co-workers, friends and family.

At the least, every employee in your office should know the following before filling out a bracket at work:

  • Employers have the right to strictly enforce a policy prohibiting recreational use of the Internet and monitor employee usage to ensure that workers adhere to the policy while working.
  • Employers have the right to expect employees to devote 100 percent of their energies to their jobs between stated work hours.
  • As long as employers act consistently, they can fire employees who play fantasy sports instead of working.

To be safe, what can employers do right now?


If you are the employer, now is the perfect time to explain your specific rules on fantasy leagues in the workplace. It is also importance to note that just because March Madness IS allowed in the office, this doesn’t mean that everyone should take part. Outline reasons for and/or against it and consequences.

If you are the employee and are spending excessive company hours as well as precious time at home on March Madness, you may need more help than the office human resources department can provide and may want to ask yourself these questions.

1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?
16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

According to Gamblers Anonymous, if you answered “yes” to seven or more questions, you or a loved one may have a problem with gambling.

Admitting you or your loved one may need help is the first step to recovery. The second is looking up the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling, which offers a litany of resources and contact information for counseling, treatment programs, additional warning signs and symptoms and much more.

Shayna Balch is an associate in Fisher & Phillips’ local office as well as  a member of the Valley of the Sun Human Resource Association’s Board of Directors. For more information about March Madness in the office, please visit laborlawyers.com or contact Shayna at (602) 281-3406.
March Madness in the Workplace

Beware The Ides Of March…Madness

This obscure phrase, once a warning uttered to the ill-fated Julius Caesar, serves now as a reminder of the coming workplace distraction otherwise known as March Madness. Since even before the days of Caesar and gladiatorial combat, humankind has been enticed with the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the exhilaration of college hoops bracketology. Okay, maybe not the college hoops part until recently, but you get the picture.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted a few years ago, roughly 40 percent of Americans are college basketball fans. Those fans are likely to regularly watch games featuring some of their favorite teams. Those who may not take time to watch games on television often at least follow their team’s progress through the myriad of electronics resources now available at our disposal — from radio, to the Internet, to cell phones and pda’s.  

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March creates the greatest enticement for even the mildly tech-savvy college basketball fan. It also creates the greatest distraction.

Anywhere from $1 billion to $4 billion will be lost in worker productivity, experts estimate, during the three-week tournament in which 65 different college teams will vie for a chance at the National Championship. This productivity is lost, in part, because the tournament games are played throughout the day, working hours included. Selection of potential game-winners, bet designations and routine game updates can take their toll on even the most dedicated and productive of workers.

If an average employee spends just 15 minutes of working time a day on hoops and makes the average wage of $18.00 per hour, this “costs” an employer $4.50 per day in lost work. With an estimated 58 million workers following the tournament, the daily loss is $250 million.  That’s $4 billion over the 16 working days of the tournament.

The resulting work drop-off, otherwise known as sudden onset bracketitis, is a not an uncommon ailment during March Madness. The dreaded affliction is commonly marked by nervousness, sudden shrieks and convulsions and an insatiable compulsion to visit college team and sports websites for updates on the tournament brackets.

These sports websites host greater amounts of material and live access with each passing year. Live tournament games are even available via the Internet thanks to CBSSportsline.com. In the first day of the tournament last year, over 3.4 million hours of streaming video and audio from the tournament were consumed by visitors to the CBSSportsline.com page. The highly-touted “Boss Button” was clicked over 1.7 million times on the first day alone. If its less-than-dubious title did not reveal its purpose, the “Boss Button” hides the live action video feed on the screen and silences the audio on the CBSSportsline.com page, replacing it with a “businesslike” image designed by cartoonist Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic.

Despite the efforts taken by some to conceal sports website distractions from supervisors, many supervisors already know that their employees are actively involved in the frenzy of March Madness. Some supervisors even promote it. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, approximately 30% of all employers know that NCAA office pools are taking place in their offices.

This leads us, of course, to the risks of betting. Social gambling generally is permissible under Arizona law with some important caveats — not that police have resources or the interest to raid the typical, small-scale office betting pool.

Employers, nonetheless, must be wary. Those employers with policies against workplace gambling who look the other way for sports pools may face questions and accusations of selective enforcement when trying to enforce those policies against more serious on-the-job gambling. Claims of selective enforcement may even erupt when employees are disciplined for wasting company time, but can readily pinpoint other employees who invest hours of work time on office pools. Selective enforcement accusations fuel claims of discrimination. Many claims of discrimination are often won or lost based on little more than selective enforcement of company policies.

Employees who decline to participate in office pools may also face peer pressure or ostracism by co-workers. Even those who participate may face taunting throughout the tournament. Trash-talking and other inappropriate behaviors are common-place during March Madness.

To reduce these risks, employers should establish their policy stance towards March Madness now, not in March. Prohibiting managers and supervisors from coordinating or soliciting employee involvement in pools or gambling is one measure that employers should follow as a minimum. Employers may also strictly enforce their Internet access policies, monitor Internet usage, and take action against employees who “go mad” and invest too much time in tournament watching or who otherwise act out.

Such strong positions may not be necessary, but they serve as a reminder of what actions employers may take if things get out of hand. Lesser approaches, such as limiting tournament activity time to break and lunch periods may prove more than adequate. Whichever approach one takes, it is also worth explaining the company’s position to all employees to ensure consistency and understanding.

Also, we should not forget that employees who exhibit a compulsiveness beyond mere appreciation for the tournament may need more help than human resources is normally equipped to provide. The Arizona Office of Problem Gambling offers a litany of resources to help. These include counseling, treatment programs and literature on warning signs and symptoms.

For many of us, March Madness is a rite of passage in the Spring – a chance to build camaraderie with co-workers, reconnect with college friends and indulge in chicken wings and all the fixin’s with family. As long as the need for responsible workplace behavior and attention to job duties is communicated along with other office policies, March Madness will continue to be a revered tradition in the workplace and elsewhere for years to come.