Legal Implications: Winning prizes at work

A few of us at work got into a debate about this and I’m curious if any lawyers out there know the answer:

Our employer (a start-up company) provides free junk food to all the computer programmers. One of the candybars supplied are Twix bars, which is currently holding an instant-win contest where you can win a car. If they provide it and you do win the car, can the company claim some right to all or a portion of any prize you win?

For that matter, if I win a phone-in contest, and make the call from work, and say…win a million dollars, can my employer legally demand some of the prize money?

It’s hard to not see that your Twix is in effect a gift from your employer so all that is derived from that gift is yours.

Howerver I’m sure there are lawyers that would disagree.

I mean let’s reverse this. If I choke on the Twix could I sue?

What if I have a chocolate Allergy? Or get fat and have a heart attack? Would my employer be held responsible for the results of this Twix that made me fat. Most likely not.

I’m of the opinion that the prize is yours. After you’ve opened the wrapper and taken a bite, I don’t think that anyone would expect the employer to say “Now hand the rest of that back”; I feel that the wrapper is part of the candy bar, and it was a gift.

In a somewhat similar vein, though, consider this: A manufacturer of chiller equipment invited local engineers to come to a luncheon and seminar to hear about proper application of their equipment. To make sure that that they wouldn’t get stuck paying for lunches for no-shows, they asked that everyone registering send in a $10 fee, which would be refunded when you walked in the door.

My employer sent a check for everyone attending from our firm. We all attended, so they just handed him his check back. Also when we walked in the door, we were each given a raffle ticket. We were told that at the end of the seminar, they would hold a raffle, and the winner would receive the uncollected money from the no-shows. (I thought this was pretty cool, actually.)

My boss had to leave the seminar early, so one of us asked him if he wanted us to hold his raffle ticket for him. He handed it over, and said “If ANY of you win, tell them to keep the money and donate it to the (Technical Society) Research Fund.”

Was he within his rights to tell us what to do with the winnings if we won? Our boss did not pay for us to attend the event, since the money was refunded. (We were, however, paid for the time we spent attending the event.) IMO, though, the raffle prize was a gift from the chiller manufacturer to the winner.

Your opinion? (Besides the fact my boss is a jerk —that was pretty well decided.) Who owned the prize?

Why would you tell the employer that the candy bar was one that you got from work? After all, most of these competitions work on the basis that you contact the manufacturer to claim your prize or to register for a prize draw. Would the manufacturer bother to distinguish where you obtained the wrapper from? What’s to stop you from saying you bought the candy bar from a convenience store? Without obtaining a warrant to search your employer’s premises, how could the manufacturer actually determine where the bar was obtained?

I would think that the raffle prize was a gift to the winner, who is your boss (if he won). If he gave away his winning raffle on the condition that the proceeds go to some charity, it is a conditional gift from him of his gift, and the condition must be upheld.

No, I would have not problem at all in donating the proceeds to the charity if HIS ticket won.

He was making it clear that we were to donate the proceeds to his charity if ANY of us won.

What if your boss gave you a substantial end of year bonus, say $2000 and you blew the entire wad on Power Ball tickets and you won $280 million? I don’t think there’s a court out there that could claim your employer could have all or a part of the winnings after all the two grand was a gift.

I am not a lawyer but I wouldn’t think that if you won a car through the candy bar your employer gave you the car could be considered your employer’s. Of course I would never tell the boss I won a car from his candy, he might let you have future candy that’s been upwrapped first. :wink:

Also, my client gives gift certificates to the ladies for a major department store here in town every Christmas in addition to a small financial gift. What if the employee, while on a shopping spree with that gift certificate won some kind of substantial gift because she was at the store the day, spending the employers gift certificate and you could win just by being there that day?

There are a lot of possiblities but I just can’t figure that an employer could have much legal ground in an instance like that.

Let’s rewrite that, sheesh I am getting bad at this posting thing!

I am not a lawyer but I wouldn’t think that if you won a car through the candy bar company, I don’t think your employer could have much claim even if the candy was supplied by your employer as a benefit or perk. I 'spose you’d have to have some legal contract upon employment that regards winning prizes on company time or through company supplied refreshments and treats, etc.