It’s that time of the year again, the annual March ping pong tournament at my local YMCA. There’s another minor tournament going on now that you may have heard of – the NCAA basketball tournament. It is during this time of year that employees of all ages, races, genders, and nationalities gather to discuss whether Middle Tennessee can upset Minnesota or if Villanova or North Carolina has a better chance to make it to the finals. It’s a bonding experience for everyone involved and a great time of year for everyone except employers.
Shockingly, employees generally make their bracket picks during working hours, which means they’re getting paid to make their picks. This doesn’t even take into account the hours of research that Bob in accounting did so that he can finish higher this year than his wife, who picks the teams based on which mascot she thinks is cuter. After the employees make their picks, they then have to spend all day Thursday and Friday (starting around noon if anyone is interested) checking scores to ensure they “still have a shot” to win. When all is said and done, employers lose hundreds of hours of “work time” during this time of year.
While employers are free to allow their employees to engage in this type of behavior, they should be mindful that it may result in potential liability in the future. If an employer permits their employees to use the computer systems to fill out brackets, check scores, and basically spend days watching games and not working, they may have a difficult time firing other employees in June for engaging in similar behavior that does not involve watching basketball.
Accordingly, an employer should, to the extent possible, enforce its policies uniformly at all times. Now I’m off to make my picks, using my company computer. If you’re looking for winners, I have South Dakota, Troy, Northern Kentucky, and Kansas in my final four. You’re welcome.
For questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.