When you interviewed for your current position, the promise of employer-sponsored events may have enticed you to accept the job. Not only do they boost company morale, but they’re also a fun way to get to know your supervisors and colleagues. Not to mention, when your company offers to pick up the tab at an amusement park, baseball game, or weekend retreat, you just say, “Yes!”
While it’s unfortunate to think that disaster could strike at such an enjoyable time, special events can expose workers to serious risks. Drunk driving accidents, sexual harassment, and sports injuries are just a few of the liability issues a company may face in an uncontrolled setting. If you were an employee on the receiving end of such an incident, you may wonder, “Would I be entitled to workers’ compensation, even if the accident didn’t happen on the job?”
At the Law Offices of Gerald D. Brody & Associates, we get this question a lot. Though every situation is unique, here’s a general overview where workers’ compensation applies after an incident at an employer-sponsored event.
Your company decides to host a picnic to thank employees for a job well done. There’s all of the typical barbecue fare to eat and lawn games set up to play at your leisure. Your supervisors have also organized a game of baseball for employees to participate in. Stepping up to the plate, you get in position to hit a homerun. You swing hard and miss, injuring your shoulder in the process. As a result of the accident, you’re unable to work for four months and have mounting medical bills from your trip to the emergency room and physical therapy appointments.
Is Your Injury Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
The workers’ compensation system is designed to protect employees who become injured or ill arising from and during the course of employment. To decide whether the employer-sponsored picnic was within the course of employment, the court will look at the following:
Whether employees were required or expected to participate in the activity
The degree to which the company sponsored the activity
Whether or not the activity took place on company property
The degree to which the company benefits from the activity
When the activity took place in relation to work
The first point is key in determining whether an employee qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. Under California law, injuries that arise out of voluntary recreational activities do not qualify for workers’ compensation – unless the injured worker’s employer directly or indirectly required participation in the activity that caused the accident. If attendance was mandatory, the accident would be considered to have occurred in the course of employment.
Another key point in determining compensability is how involved the company was in the overall event. Did the company pay for all of the food, games and park rental? Did the CEO make a speech about the company or distribute awards? If it is found that the company sponsored, paid for, and supervised the event, this can affect a workers’ compensation case.
Have you been injured at an employer-sponsored event?
Though California has attempted to draw clear lines, questions about whether an employee is eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits related to a “forced” fun recreational activity are still murky. If you were injured at a company-sponsored event and believe that your employer expected you and other employees to attend, your injury may be covered by workers’ compensation.
At The Law Offices of Gerald D. Brody & Associates, we understand that every workers’ compensation case is as unique as the people involved. For legal advice pertaining to your particular circumstances, please give us a call to schedule your free, initial consultation.