Joining a Powerball pool at work? Here are the possible pitfalls
Are you and your coworkers pooling money together for Wednesday night's massive Powerball jackpot?
Getting involved in the office pool would technically increase your chances of winning, but it may not be worth the trouble. Legal experts insist there are plenty of potential disputes hiding beneath the surface, especially if you hit for big money.
Both employees and employers have to look out for the pitfalls, according to Alvaro Hasani with labor law firm Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill.
Do you know if your coworkers would take a lump sum or annuity if a ticket matched all six numbers? If your joint tickets hit for a total of $100, can you take your share, or do you have to let it ride for the next drawing? What about the folks who only joined for Wednesday's drawing and not Saturday's - do they get as much of a share as those who have been in from the start?
Hasani said these and other questions are usually not considered by pool participants or the person running the operation, but having a "lottery pool agreement" in place beforehand can make a big difference.
"People don't often realize the significance of having such an agreement in place, particularly because they know there's a very slim chance of winning," Hasani said. "But you have to think about overcoming the odds. After all, that's why you play the game."
The agreement can come in the form of an email, Hasani said, and this quick act of caution may help tremendously in the event of any lawsuits from employees down the line.
There's a higher likelihood of a lawsuit in workplaces that feature a lottery "pot" all year round - workers contribute a set amount of money each week and pray they eventually strike gold.
But if Bobby from accounting, an every-week participant, is on vacation when everyone else hits the jackpot, here comes trouble.
Hasani said employers can distance themselves from any lottery disputes by implementing a policy that only allows such betting to occur on non-work time.
Still, these pools can be a nightmare for bosses, from lost productivity to a possible mass exodus of employees if they win the jackpot.
According to Barry Epstein of The Epstein Law Firm in Rochelle Park, one common dispute stems from office pool participants who buy their own tickets, separate from the main pot.
"The person with the tickets has claimed that this winning ticket was something he or she purchased on the side with his or her own money, as opposed to the group money," Epstein said.
But these pools don't have to simply run on the honor system. The solution is simple: the person in charge of tickets must present all the purchased combinations to participants before the drawing, either through scanning and emailing the tickets or posting copies in the break room.