Rules Needed for Office Lottery Pools

Powerball

With the current Powerball Jackpot estimated at $1.4 billion, the highest amount ever, people everywhere are lined up to buy tickets—and making plans for their winnings. The odds of winning Powerball, however, are one in 292,201,338. Meanwhile the odds of being struck by lightning in any given year are one in 700,000.

To maximize their odds of winning, many form pools to purchase more tickets. Often this takes place at work, but if a company is located in a state where the lottery or gambling is illegal, an office pool may not be a good idea.

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They are not allowed to be sold in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah.

“Even if you pool your money and then buy a ticket from another jurisdiction, the criminal statute may still apply. You were arguably participating in and promoting a lottery within the state,” Stephanie Rabiner wrote.

Employees of the U.S. government should also be aware that they are prohibited from taking part in any gambling activity on government-owned or government-leased property, or when they are on duty for the government.

But with so much money at stake, what could go wrong? Plenty, and with the jackpot so high, the likelihood for complications is also increased. Midge Seltzer, president of Engage PEO, lists a few of the potential problems and steps that can be taken to circumvent them.

Potential issues:

  • Employee claims he or she bought the winning ticket and was not part of the pool.
  • Employee only verbally said, “I’m in,” or “Yes, and I’ll give you the money tomorrow.”
  • Participants aren’t actually known, because the pool is so loosely handled.
  • An employee had participated previously, but was absent to contribute to this pool.

Guidance:

  • Ensure that all participants pay prior to purchase of lottery tickets.
  • Choose a leader—the employee who will be responsible to purchase the tickets and put them in a safe place.
  • Make copies of the tickets.
  • Have all participants write and sign their names and have the lead confirm that he/she paid for the tickets.
  • Agree beforehand how employees will choose the numbers (at random or set numbers).
  • Agree beforehand whether employees will take a lump sum or payout.

What are the most popular states for Powerball?

Residents of Rhode Island have bought the most Powerball tickets, with an average of 3.44 tickets per person since the last jackpot was won on Nov. 4, according to consumer finance website ValuePenguin.

The top 20 states for per-capita participation in Powerball:

Top-20 States for ticket sales

Legal Lessons from Starbucks’ Race Together Campaign

Starbucks Coffee Race Together Campaign

One aspect of Starbucks Coffee’s recent “Race Together” campaign encouraged employees to engage customers in a discussion about race. This effort—which had employees write #racetogether on customers’ cups to encourage dialogue—was well intentioned. However, the speed at which it was scrapped shows just how difficult it is to incorporate political and social discussions into the workplace.

The term “hostile work environment” often gets thrown around without any thought to what that really means. The greatest misconception is that anything hostile or abusive that happens at the workplace is illegal. Albeit inappropriate, screaming at an employee or calling him stupid is simply not illegal.

The flipside of that coin is that conduct does not necessarily have to be abusive or threatening to create a hostile environment when the subject matter is a protected category under Title VII, which prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Forcing employees to engage in discussions with strangers about race without any control over how the customer will respond opens an opportunity for the work environment to become incredibly uncomfortable for employees.

Employers have a duty to protect their employees from harassment based upon protected categories by customers, not just other employees. So if a customer responds to an offer to start a conversation about race with a mean-spirited joke or simply a racial epithet, the employer will have to take action against that customer. If these types of responses become repetitive, the employer would likely have an obligation to stop the source of the conflict—in other words, cease the practice of having employees start discussions about race.

There are many other pitfalls in having workplace discussions around sensitive topics that fall into protected categories under Title VII. A discussion of this sort, in spite of the best intentions of the participants to be thoughtful and candid, can easily bring to the surface differences in thought among employees, which may result in ill will. Likewise, comments made during these conversations could be used as evidence that a particular manager is prejudiced against certain types of individuals. Individuals certainly have different perceptions of the meanings of different comments and actions, so a manager might feel that comments he makes do not show any sort of prejudice, while the people hearing the conversation can come to a completely different conclusion. Should the manager then take some disciplinary or other job-related action against an employee, the conversation may be used as the basis for a discrimination lawsuit. At that point, what the speaker intended is less relevant than how the comment is perceived by a judge or jury.

Most employers today certainly haven’t taken steps to instigate this sort of discussion in the workplace. But events do arise in the news that relate to these topics and become the fodder for water cooler conversation. Most employers do not want to become the “speech police,” monitoring every communication among employees that might not relate directly to the business. Yet, these conversations can, just as the discussion on race that Starbucks initiated, become problematic. Then, the key is to make sure that employees are aware of their opportunities to report behavior that causes them discomfort. Open door and non-harassment policies attempt to encourage employees to come forward well before any workplace conduct would become a truly actionable illegal hostile environment. Encouraging use of this process can assist employers in nipping problems in the bud.

Handling a complaint related to an uncomfortable discussion can have its own problems. Chances are that the employee being complained of did not understand that talking about what he saw on the news the night before should be grounds for his being called out. Many employees wrongly believe that the First Amendment protects the right to discuss these events at a private employer’s place of work. Thus, when having the conversation with the offending employee, the employer needs to be prepared to educate the employee on the differences of opinions and perceptions that different people have as well as the employer’s right to keep discussions out of the workplace.

While the conversation about the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign will likely die down, employers can continue to expect the occasional need to address misunderstandings and comments as long as the outside world is focused on these issues. In light of that, here are some steps employers can take to be prepared.

  • Train managers that they should not be engaging in conversations on non-work-related controversial topics with their employees.
  • Train employees and managers in the reporting procedures under open-door policies so they know how to raise a problem before it becomes a big issue.
  • Train employees that your nondiscrimination and harassment policy extends not just to their fellow employees, but also to customers and vendors.

Finally, and most importantly, be responsive when employees raise concerns. Not every complaint is a valid one and not every event that makes somebody uncomfortable is inappropriate. Sometimes an employee must be told that their complaint is not going to result in any changes. Failing to follow up with the complaining employee creates an atmosphere of distrust or leads to the belief that the employer does not mean what it says about preventing illegal harassment.

Crime Expert Reveals Biggest Gaps in Company Security

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, Canada – After decades of working undercover for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs Service, crime and risk expert Chris Mathers knows where companies are vulnerable and what it takes to protect them.

“In a world where popular culture tells us that the ends justify the means, crime is all about perception,” he said in a keynote address at the 2014 RIMS Canada Conference. “Young people are bombarded with it all the time, but we are in business, too. So the question is, how vulnerable is your business?”

Mathers, who joined the forensic division of KPMG and was later named president of corporate intelligence, shared his insight into how companies can best guard against “the business of crime, and crime in business.”

During his 20 years dealing with drug traffickers, money launderers and members of organized crime syndicates, Mathers developed what he calls a “10/80/10” theory – 10% of the population is truly bad, 10% is truly good and would never lie (but you will probably never meet), and the other 80% is everywhere in between. Identifying and managing the risks of that 80% requires far more work than employers are currently doing, he said.

Background checks may be the single biggest thing companies can do better, Mathers said. While most businesses perform background checks when an employee is hired, such investigations are seldom conducted during the course of employment. As an example, he cited a case where a company had a director who was serving jail time on the weekends. Due to Canadian privacy laws, however, the case was never reported, so no one knew he had been convicted and imprisoned while on staff. In addition to possible reputation implications, the company could have been exposed to liability if any incidents had occurred at work.

While searching for criminal records of new hires is an excellent start, periodic checks should be implemented for all employees. High levels of drug use in the workplace in industries like manufacturing can be further compounded by the lack of drug testing in Canada, Mathers said. Further, 90% of corporate theft cases he have involved perpetrators who were gamblers.

He suggested that investigations should examine whether employees: have extreme views, use or are addicted to drugs, exhibit signs of alcoholism, are addicted to gambling or participate in illegal gambling, frequent prostitutes, or have relatives or a spouse associated with a criminal organization.

Associating with criminals can be a significant risk factor, regardless of the nature of the relationship. “Prostitutes are criminals and associate with criminals,” Mathers said. “They are around that activity and more likely to engage in it, which may mean they steal a client’s wallet or steal the sensitive intellectual property he’s carrying.” Similarly, an administrative assistant who is married to a member of the Hell’s Angels can introduce far more than just reputation risk if the spouse gets involved in illegal activities like drug smuggling.

Employees within a company can also rationalize criminal behavior. In the case of a man found to have stolen thousands of dollars through expense account fraud, for example, Mathers said the company faced a wrongful dismissal suit from the thief. He was never told that he could not steal, the man said, claiming the practice was an “unofficial bonus program.” Further, he claimed his boss had been doing it for years. “People see that behavior and come to think it is OK because they become accustomed to seeing it,” Mathers said. Maintaining regular internal investigations and ensuring compliance does not just bust wrong-doers, but prevents others from developing, especially as new technology continually emerges to make theft easier to commit and harder to track.

“There are no new crimes – they’re the same crimes, they’re just using new techniques to get them to you,” he said. Companies need to keep updating their monitoring strategies to match.

 

Why Employees Quit—And How to Keep Them

Why Employees Quit

Employee turnover creates tremendous risk—resources are lost in recruitment and training, productivity lags with insufficient staffing, intellectual property can be exposed, and no company wants to get a reputation as a place where no one can stay very long. Further, the implications for workers comp, lawsuits and insurance extended to employees can cause headaches long after a desk has been cleared out.

A few recent studies highlight some of the biggest factors contributing to employee turnover resultant human resources risk, and what managers can do to keep staff and avoid risk.

Why Employees Leave

A new “exit survey” conducted by LinkedIn among members from five countries found that top reason workers left their jobs was because they wanted greater opportunities for advancement. In a related study from the social network, the number one reason employees who were not actively seeking a new job would be willing to leave was for better compensation or benefits. Regular performance reviews and assessments that open up opportunity for advancement in both responsibilities and salary can help keep employees engaged—and prevent feeling they have to stray to stay on top.

Room to Improve

Another recent study from LinkedIn found that 69% of human resources managers thought that employees were well aware of internal advancement programs. Yet only 25% of departing employees said they knew about these opportunities. In fact, of those who stayed within the company and found a new position internally, two thirds found out about the opportunity through informal interaction with coworkers. Strengthening formal retention and advancement programs and improving awareness of these initiatives may go a long way toward getting employees to use them.

Why New Hires Quit

One in six employees quits a new job within six months — and 15% either make plans to do so or quit outright within that time frame, according to Time. HR software company BambooHR found that the primary factor was “onboarding problems”—in other words, HR or managers are failing to properly orient new hires and integrate them into the workplace. This may seem silly, but they could have reason to feel this is a fatal flaw: research from John Kammeyer-Mueller, associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, found that there is only a 90-day window for settling in. If your new employee is not caught up to speed by then, you may see them walk out the door.

Getting Employees to Stay

CareerBuilder surveyed thousands of workers recently to gain insight into why they decide to stay or go. Of those who plan to stay at their jobs, the top reasons they did not want to leave included: liking the people they work with (54%), having a good work/life balance (50%), being satisfied with the benefits package (49%), and feeling happy with their salary (43%). Of those who are unhappy, however, 58% said they plan to leave in the next year. Making sure these bases are covered is a strong step to keeping your top talent at their desks.

Check out the infographic below for more of LinkedIn’s insights into why employees leave, and what you lose when they go: