HR Tip of the Week

Fantasy Football & the Workplace: Is There A Flag Down on the Field?

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Football season is in full swing and millions of Americans are participating in fantasy football leagues. In these leagues, individuals draft virtual teams and earn points based on how well their players do in actual games.

Some fantasy football leagues involve money (participants pay entry fees and win money if their virtual teams prevail), while others don't. With fantasy football becoming more popular, employee participation might spill over into your workplace.

Here are some considerations for addressing fantasy football leagues and similar competitions.

Anti-Gambling Laws:

Some states have enacted laws that specifically prohibit gambling in the workplace and/or online, but these states may differ on whether fantasy sports (that involve money or something of value) are considered a form of gambling. Even in states that don't prohibit gambling or don't consider fantasy sports a form of gambling, employers have the right to ban fantasy leagues in the workplace.

It's a best practice to have a written policy that:

  • Prohibits all forms of gambling in the workplace;
  • Includes a definition and examples of gambling; and
  • Indicates that employees who violate the policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Many employers make clear that the anti-gambling policy covers fantasy sports if the leagues require participants to put up money or something of monetary value. Note: Employers may also want to make sure their social media and anti-solicitation policies are drafted to cover fantasy sports activities.

Productivity Issues:

Even if the fantasy sport doesn't involve money, it can have a negative impact on productivity if employees are spending work time drafting, researching players, setting their lineups, tracking scores, and discussing their teams while at work. Below are some considerations:

  • Use of company equipment and personal devices: Some employers choose to restrict the personal use of company equipment during work time; however, a complete ban can be counterproductive and difficult to enforce. Many employers permit occasional personal use at work, provided it doesn't interfere with the employee's work or violate another policy. Make sure your employees understand these rules, including when and where they are permitted to use personal devices, when they can use company equipment for personal reasons, and what websites are off-limits.
  • Fantasy football discussions: If discussions about fantasy football become disruptive, interfere with employees' work, or result in a violation of a company policy, respond promptly and consistently with how you would handle other performance or conduct issues.

Morale-Boosting Activities:

Some employers use football season as an opportunity to improve employee morale. Employers may relax dress codes so employees can wear their team's apparel, or organize their own fantasy football leagues (provided employees don't need to pay to participate). Before doing so, consider:

  • The potential impact on productivity;
  • Checking with legal counsel to ensure you don't violate applicable laws; and
  • Making your leagues as inclusive as possible. Check with employees to determine if there is enough interest, make participation strictly voluntary, and train supervisors to recognize issues related to exclusion and potential discrimination. Avoid perceptions that participating may create opportunities for employees who are involved versus those who aren't.

Conclusion:

Develop and enforce clear policies and procedures to ensure that fantasy football and similar competitions aren't negatively impacting your business.

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