Connecticut Employment Law Blog Insight on Labor & Employment Developments for Connecticut Businesses

Beware the Ides of March (But that Office Pool is Probably Okay)

Posted in Laws and Regulations

With the UConn Women’s Basketball Team on a 72 game winning streak (and the University of Hartford riding high as well), it’s hard not to get excited about the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments that start in a few days.  (Let’s just quickly forget the UConn’s men’s team for the moment, shall we?)

Part of the fun of the tournaments is filling out the brackets to the tournament. And offices are not immune to bracket fever.

But are they legal?

I’ve discussed office pools and such in detail in a previous post, but the short answer is that they’re mostly fine.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal chimed two years ago in that he viewed office pools as okay, so long as the house did not profit from it. 

“Office pools are generally legal unless they’re done for a profit by the person organizing it,” Blumenthal said. “In other words, if there’s a house, so to speak, or an organizer takes a cut (then it’s illegal).”

So, what’s the takeaway for employers? Even with the attorney general’s blessing, the company should probably not sponsor the pool directly. If a few employees want to organize, so much the better. But if that happens, someone should inform those individuals that any money collected should be distributed and they are not allowed to keep a cut of the money.  

Of course, the company can always sponsor a contest (different from an office pool in that participants do not need to submit money to play) for employees to get involved with.  For example, the company could give away a free "vacation day" to the winner of the bracket. It’s a fun, low-cost way to build morale within a department or office.