March Madness: Legal Standpoint

By Daniel D’Amico, Trending Writer

With March Madness upon us, fans are showing their excitement in a variety of ways. One of which is making brackets and having pools with friends or fellow employees. There are certainly a variety of positive effects. However, legal trouble can arise in certain cases.

Even though they may seem harmless, pools on college games in the office are illegal. According to Legalzoom, “organizing or participating in inter-office gambling, like all unlicensed sports betting, is illegal.” Employers and employees alike should exercise caution when it comes to these pools. In reality, the likelihood of being prosecuted for them is low, however it can result in a year in prison.

In addition, there can be other legal troubles that arise. The fans of the NCAA are comprised mostly of men. According to Inc, if an employer allows fans to watch and bet on the games, then women can argue for work time on their interests. When an employer tries to tell women not to browse the internet while men watch the games, they can violate equal treatment. Bosses should be cautious in these cases because they could be charged with sexual discrimination in the workplace.

Workplace productivity is also negatively affected during this time. Professional Liability Matters states that in 2013, an estimated 8.4 million employees would watch NCAA games during work hours. There is also the issue of using workplace equipment to stream the games. Many offices have policies restricting workplace equipment to work related matters.

There are many ways in which employers can keep their employees in check during this time. Many suggest that they release and maintain clear policies on office brackets, especially concerning the use of workplace equipment. They do not have to necessarily prohibit it altogether, but rather make it known that there are certainly risks involved. In fact, employers can even allow time for employees to watch the games and breaks in order to speak about them with each other. A separation of work and gambling is recommended by organizing times outside of work to enjoy the games among other means.

There are certain positive aspects that some feel outweigh the risks. For instance, watching and speaking about the games may disrupt work, but it will make for happier employees. With their morale boosted they would be more willing to spend the time they were working to work efficiently.

There are both positive and negative aspects of March Madness. Whether the risks outweigh the good or vice versa is up to the employer. Regardless, businesses should be clear and strict about their policies. It is smart to exercise caution when office pools are occurring in any office.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.

Contact Daniel at

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