"The Super Bowl Made Me Super Sick" and Other Workplace Fumbles

Posted by: Gail Cecchettini Whaley, J.D. on Thursday, January 30, 2020

Do any of your employees get "Super Bowl Fever," calling in with mysterious illnesses the Monday after Super Bowl? If so, you are not alone. And this year, with the San Francisco 49ers going for their sixth Super Bowl win, California employers may see an even greater spread of this strange sickness hitting the workplace on February 3.

17.2 million Americans said they might not go to work on the Monday after Super Bowl — with many of those absences last-minute "sick" days, according to a 2019 Harris Poll commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos. Not only that, it seems nearly 22 million could either arrive late for work, leave work early or work remotely on that Monday.

According to the Kronos report, one in three American workers (32%) believe the day after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday, including 41% of those aged 18–34 versus just 23% of those aged 55–64.

Just the scheduled absences alone puts the Super Bowl cost to employers at $4.4 billion.

Gain Some Yardage and Plan in Advance

Given these statistics, perhaps it is best to plan in advance for some amount of unscheduled absenteeism to obtain adequate coverage. You may need to overstaff or go to a volunteer on-call list.

Be careful not to require employees to wait around and be available for work. If you do so, you may need to pay them for that waiting time.

What can you do if an employee calls in sick the Monday after Super Bowl? As with all things HR, it depends.

If the employee uses California paid sick leave under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, you can't ask for a doctor's note to verify the legitimacy of the absence. Basically, if they call you and say they are sick, that's the end of the story. On the other hand, if they have used all of their mandatory paid sick leave, you may be able to request the note.

If an employee fails to show up for work and never checks in with you, then refer to your employee handbook. If you have no-call/no-show rules, use them.

Encourage Monday Morning Quarterbacking

One way to help get folks to show up the Monday after the Super Bowl might be to have some sort of fun perk. Maybe a healthy breakfast, pizzas at lunch, or some type of office swag. Consider letting employees wear their favorite team jersey that day — unless you are worried about uber-competitive bragging.

Keep in mind that employees who do show up may not be fully functioning or productive because they over ate or over drank. Other employees may simply be distracted talking about the game and commercials with their co-workers, re-watching highlights or checking media reports. Managers should be on alert, especially in safety-sensitive jobs, that a hungover or distracted employee isn't posing an actual job hazard. If someone reasonably appears to still be under the influence, follow your drug and alcohol policy.

Final Score

If you happen to do business in the Bay Area, perhaps consider giving employees some time off to celebrate a 49ers win and the Championship Parade — it could even be an office outing if work permits.

And in the event the 49ers don't get the win, maybe show some sympathy for a bit of Monday wallowing before getting to work!

Have an HR question? CEA members have unlimited HR phone support. Not a member? Give us a call at 800.399.5331.

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