Verizon fires workers who ran, participated in office football pool

Super Bowl pool costs six workers their jobs – 32 others suspended

If you thought taking part in the office Super Bowl pool or filling out a March madness bracket at work wasn't a big deal, think again - especially if you work at Verizon. 

The Taunton (Mass.) Gazette today reported that Verizon fired six workers and suspended 32 others for taking part in a Super Bowl pool this year.   

From the Gazette item: "The female sales representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the announcement by management came as a surprise. The Super Bowl pool, she said, "was just for fun." But she also acknowledges that Verizon has a strict "code of business conduct" that specifically prohibits any form of gambling at work."

"Verizon does not tolerate illegal activities of any kind," and "betting is illegal in Massachusetts," Phil Santoro, Verizon's Boston-based spokesman told the Gazette.

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Whether the firings and suspensions were related or not to a recent strike by Verizon workers is the question raised by the article. Verizon denies the moves had anything to do with the strike.

Such drastic actions for what most people consider a workplace diversion are not unusual.  In 2009 Fidelity Investments fired four employees for playing fantasy football on company time.

An interesting story  posted on The Sports & Entertainment Law Playbook site notes: "Although the law varies from state to state, a few more than half of all states are consistent to the extent that they don't punish "social gambling." Except in the state of Florida, social gambling usually means gambling that doesn't take place in public establishments, and is non-commercial, or not-for-profit-i.e., there is no "house" per se, which takes its own cut off the top of all the wagers. In Florida, social gambling has a ten-dollar table limit. To check your state's laws, attorney Chuck Humphrey put together a great website that summarizes the laws of all fifty states, and compiles the anti-gambling statutes for each state as well.

A 2010 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), found that 23% of employers have a written policy regarding gambling, and an additional 10% have an unwritten or understood policy against it.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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