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Are Injuries at a Work Event (Bonding Activity, Holiday Party, Happy Hour) Compensable?

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Work events that happen outside the workplace can be a fun time to relax with your coworkers. However, accidents can happen anywhere and, if you suffer an injury at a workplace event, you need answers regarding compensation for your injuries. When accidents occur at employer-sponsored events, workers’ compensation laws become more complex. Discuss your injury with an attorney to understand your next steps after a work event injury.

As fun as employer-sponsored events are, they also bring the risks of being in an uncontrolled situation. While participating in an employee sports game, someone may become injured. Following happy hour, drunk driving may result in a crash. Though these accidents may not happen on the job, they still occurred at or because of a work event. In some cases, employers may be responsible for these kinds of injuries.

Real World Scenario for Work-Event Injury

Consider a scenario where employees have gathered at a company picnic. Beyond food and company, management is encouraging employees to play some games. While participating, an employee overexerts herself and is unable to work due to the injury. She also needs to deal with the bills from her treatments. Though she suffered harm during a work-sanctioned event, whether the company is liable for her injury depends on a few issues.

Workers’ compensation exists to protect from illnesses and injuries that arise from work, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In some cases, performing a task for the sake of one’s job, even if it occurs outside of the workplace, can still be eligible. Work events require closer examination, but they can qualify for compensation under certain conditions.

Factors to Consider

When it’s a question of whether a work event qualifies as something an employee does during the course of employment, courts consider these factors in their decisions:

  • Whether the employer expected or required employees to participate.
  • Company’s level of sponsorship.
  • If the accident occurred on company property.
  • How much the company benefits from the activity.
  • When the activity occurred in relation to work hours.

The employee’s expected attendance is one of the most critical components whether a work event qualifies. By California law, injuries from voluntary recreational activities are not eligible for workers’ compensation. This eliminates most work events from falling under the company’s range of responsibility.

However, an exception to this law comes if the employer required employee participation. This requirement can be either direct or indirect. As such, a work event would be within the course of employment if attendance was mandatory, even if the employee was not receiving pay for their time.

The level of company involvement and sponsorship also affects eligibility for workers’ compensation. If the employer covered all rental, games, and food costs at a park or if an executive member distributed awards can imply the company/workplace sponsored the event.

If the company mostly sponsored an event, then the employer’s amount of responsibility may increase. As the employer is partially or fully responsible for supervising the event, a workers’ compensation case can become more valid.

Think back to the employee who suffered an injury at the company picnic. If her employer said that everyone needed to come or if the company paid for the food, activities, and even rented out the area for the picnic, she may be able to receive workers’ compensation. Likewise, if the picnic occurred on company ground, she may receive workers’ comp. These factors would not guarantee that her situation would qualify, but she would still have grounds to look into the matter further.

Determining if an accident at a work event counts as workers’ compensation can be difficult. California law has guidelines, but they are not always clear, especially if the injury happened in a non-traditional situation. Discuss your incident with one of our attorneys to determine if your case qualifies for workers’ compensation.