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If you are a professional sports fan…you know what time of year it is. September 8th is the first day of the NFL season. In three weeks’ time the MLB playoffs will start. The world cup of hockey starts soon. The NHL season begins shortly thereafter. US College football season is already in full force.

If you are not… you might be asking so what? What does this have to do with employment law? What does this have to do with my workplace? But then please ask yourself this: Do you want to be the employer that was roaming the empty halls asking “where did everyone go?” on the fourteenth day of the tenth month of 2015, just four hours before Jose Bautista flipped his bat in the air and sent the entire country of Canada into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1993?

Or…. do you want to be the boss that hauled the big screen TV into the cafeteria at 3:30 on that same day and invited everyone to share the experience together?

A leader with a blind eye to professional sports will run into avoidable problems and miss some great morale boosting opportunities…..I guarantee it.

Let’s take two interrelated multibillion dollar industries:  The NFL and Fantasy sports.  Why not also add internet gambling while we are at it.  Put them all together and then tell me that no one in your workplace is interested in any of them.

The fact is, sports pools, gambling and “super fans” are common in most workplaces. This fact transcends industry, sector, profession and education levels.  Employers should treat these issues like any other issue that might cause productivity, morale or even attendance issues.

As an employer, do you have a strategy or policy in place that:

  • Addresses gambling in the workplace while appropriately balancing an employee’s right to conduct their own affairs on their own time? Does it respect the fact that gambling addiction is considered a disability under Canadian law?
  • Addresses the solicitation of other employees for pools by recognizing the unintended pressures that may be felt by subordinates who are asked to join by their superiors…or even vice versa? Does it appropriately jive with your other non-solicitation policies? Does it consider what might happen when a fellow colleague refuses to “pay up” or when a winner “can’t collect” from the organizer?
  • Addresses, in one way or another, whether it is appropriate to use the Company’s computers to make your “football picks”, “put your players in” or “put $100 on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl”? How does it treat the many hours that committed fans and sports betters are spending “reading about last night’s game” or “researching” their picks or bets on Company time?

Someone once looked me straight in the eye when I asked them if they participated in any fantasy sports pools and said “I don’t know what that is”.

If you are a sports fan, please enjoy this exciting time of the year. And if you are an employer, don’t be that someone…. because if you are, it’ll end up costing you one way or the other.