Workers Comp and Company Events
When a worker is injured at a company recreational event, the predominant issue is whether the claimant’s accident occurred “out of and in the course of employment”. The facts and circumstances of the case determine whether the injury qualifies under workers’ compensation.
Workers compensation law section 10(1) sets forth three conditions under which workers compensation benefits may be awarded for injuries incurred during voluntary participation in an off-duty athletic activity that is not part of the employees work related activities. Specifically, an award is foreclosed under section 10 unless “the employer (1) required the employee to participate in the activity, (2) paid the worker to do so, or (3) sponsored the activity” (Matter of Bogert v. E.B. Design Air, Inc. 38 AD3d 1125 , quoting Matter of Dorosz v. Green & Seifter, 92 NY2d 672 ).
To illustrate this issue, here are two fact patterns with different outcomes: one claimant was awarded benefits while the other was not.
- 119 NYWCLR 54 Fedex Express G2255753
The claimant suffered injury to his left leg while participating in a company-sponsored “family day” basketball game. He testified that he played in this company basketball game every year, and that the self-insured employer (SIE) advertised the match, incentivized and encouraged participation in the basketball tournament with posters, in-office trophy display, and prizes. The SIE also provided the t-shirt that the employee wore as a uniform during the match, which had the company’s name and logo on it. The SIE provided tickets free of charge for employees and their families, as well as free food and drinks.
The SIE contended that the claimant’s accident did not arise out of or in the course of employment because he was injured in a social athletic activity and was not paid for his participation.
As the SIE sponsored the company event, advertised the event and incentivized participation in the basketball tournament, the Workers’ Compensation Board ruled that the claimant’s accident did arise out of and in the course of employment.
Now, let’s look at another similar case with a different outcome.
- General Electric, 114 NYWELR 142 (N.Y.W.C.B., Panel 2014)
The claimant suffered injuries to his ACL and meniscus while playing softball with his coworkers. The team was playing on company property, with company-owned equipment that was provided by the employer’s health clinic and stored on the premises.
The Workers’ Compensation Board Panel denied benefits to the claimant because his injuries were not sustained out of and in the course of employment. The Board found that the employer did not require the employee(s) to participate in the softball game, did not sponsor the activity and did not benefit in any obvious way from the activity.
As you can see from the different outcomes of these two cases, the facts of the case matter a great deal in determining if an injury was sustained out of and in the course of employment.
If you were injured at a company event and are unsure whether or not you qualify for workers' compensation benefits, contact Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for your free consultation!