Workplace Policies – How Can I Make Sure I’m Doing the Right Thing and Not Killing Employee Morale?

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I’ve been receiving more inquiries from business owners about employee manuals or handbooks. Just recently there were articles about the four people terminated from Fidelity for participating in football fantasy leagues. I’ve read comments from people on these articles and very few are undecided about the topic.

There are some states where office pools involving gambling are illegal. So, you might be thinking … What do I do? That’s what I envision this blog to be: A place for people to ask, “Do I need to be aware of this?” or “What should I do next?” in the area of human resources. My name is Mary Dunlap, and my associate, Debra Girvin, SPHR, and I help business owners with these types of HR questions.

So let’s talk about office pools—football, basketball, etc. Before you think you’re the only company not having a policy on office pools, gambling, etc., according to several Society for Human Resource Management surveys (2006 and 2008), almost 80 percent of firms surveyed have no policy, written or unwritten (understood). While some firms are putting a written policy in place against gambling, there could be exceptions made for pools, raffles, etc. (as long as they do not violate federal or state laws).

People are divided on office pools. Some see the pools as morale building and others see them as steps leading to or encouraging more problem gambling. What should you do?

 1) Find out whether your state laws prohibit office pools. Consult your attorney or check the state regulations website.

 2) Clearly decide and talk with (involve) employees as to what constitutes illegal gambling.

3) Decide with employees whether pools, raffles, etc. should be allowed to be conducted in the office, BUT clearly done on personal time (if allowed by law).  Does this activity conflict with your firm’s values and principles?

4) Talk with employees about whether pools or raffles actually encourage compulsive, problem gambling habits. Managers need to be concerned for their employees and look for any changes in behavior.

5) Decide if company equipment should be used in the conduct of pools, raffles, etc., keeping in mind that whatever becomes public knowledge can affect the community’s perception of the firm. Company e-mails are reviewed by compliance and are property of the company, subject to inspection and audit.

6) Have a clearly understood and written policy regarding gambling, office pools, raffles, etc. This policy needs to be communicated clearly to employees along with  what happens if the policy is violated. The policy has to be fairly enforced—no one gets special treatment.

Communication with your team and research is vital before adding or changing any company policy. Use care: Involve the appropriate professionals, consult with your team and explain reasons for policy adoption or change. Your actions without communication can be interpreted many different ways with unexpected consequences.

What are your thoughts on adding or changing policies? What are your experiences? Which policies are best for your company? What ones are you uncertain about?

Mary Dunlap, CFP®
Mary Dunlap Consulting
Pottstown, Pa.


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