March Madness Office Pools can be a Mine Field for the Boss

With March Madness starting in earnest today, a local employment attorney says bosses should be wary of Final Four bracket pools underway in their office, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

While the pools themselves are generally legal, John Heller with the local office of Fisher and Phillips says things start getting dicey when the employer has anything to do with their operation.

"When the employees are doing it and they are putting in money and it's a pool situation, the employer should have as little to do with that as they can," he told News Radio 1200 WOAI.

Office pools for March Madness and other events are generally legal if they are open only to a limited number of people, like the employees in the office, and if the operator of the pool doesn't take any cut specifically for putting on the pool.

In fact, Heller says pools can be good for office morale.

"Team building and to get people with a common interest to get together and work together, as long as they're careful and have parameters in terms of what they do," he said.

He says the employer needs especially to stay away from the money end of the pool, to avoid it being considered 'vigorish,' or the cut that goes to the operator of the pool.  It was the fat that so called Fantasy Sports games take a cut of the action was what prompted the Texas Attorney General to declare them to be illegal gambling, a ruling which is currently being fought in the Legislature.

And Heller points out that your First Amendment rights don't cover gambling, and a boss has the absolute right to prohibit gambling in the office, and even to fire an employee who violates a no gambling rule.

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