Super Bowl Flu, Gambling and Red Carpet Reviews: The Impact of Cultural Events in the Workplace

In Episode 47 of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank and employment law expert Jennifer Shaw discuss the ways in which cultural events like the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards can create potential issues and affect productivity at work.

Super Bowl Flu

One possible issue created by the Super Bowl being on a Sunday is absenteeism following the big game. While planned absences are easier to deal with, unplanned absences can create havoc.

Shaw and Frank advise employers to anticipate additional absences after the Super Bowl, not only due to the fact that workers may be recovering from effects of the big game, but also because it is cold and flu season.

Sick leave is a benefit nearly all employers are required to provide, so when employees use it, it is important that the boss does not question the reason for the illness nor dwell on it, Shaw says.

Workplace Gambling

Gambling by employees at work—which often occurs during football season and March Madness—can be a big issue in the workplace. What employers often miss is that gambling not only slows productivity, but also creates drama when people do not or cannot pay what they owe. Believe it or not, people have gone to their HR departments to ask if the company can take gambling debt out of an employee’s paycheck, comments Shaw.

According to Frank and Shaw, many employers are hesitant to forbid workplace betting. However, both attorneys point out that workplace gambling is illegal and it shouldn’t be happening. They agree that the best approach is to take action up front by ensuring a company’s ethics policy reflects the fact that gambling at work is unacceptable.

Reviews of the Halftime Show

This year’s Super Bowl halftime show generated some controversy on the appropriateness of costumes worn. Shaw and Frank warn that jokes and comments related to the performers or their appearance, for example, can lead to trouble.

“There are a lot of issues there; not only could it be harassment-related issues, but discrimination-related issues or issues related to national origin, all of which are protected classes in California,” Frank says.

Academy Awards

The Oscars also can generate chatter that might be unwelcome in the workplace, according to Frank. What happens on the red carpet and during the awards show seems to find its way into the workplace, and often it is all in good fun. However, discussions about political viewpoints, sexism and physical appearance are out of bounds.

“It’s a distraction that gets people off of work, but more importantly has a personal element where people get very connected to their views,” Shaw says. Employees should be encouraged to respect the views of all and stay away from hot button issues or commenting on people’s appearance.

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