The preeminent rule for workers’ comp eligibility is that an injury must be work-related, meaning that it occurs “in the course of employment” and “arises out of employment.” Yet, many companies hold events outside the place of employment and at off hours. Suppose you’re at your company’s annual holiday party and twist your knee line-dancing. It requires surgery to repair and you miss two weeks of work. Or you’re playing softball on the company-sponsored team and break your ankle sliding into third base. You require surgery to set the bone and miss six weeks of work. In either case, are you covered by workers’ comp? You may or may not be, depending on certain circumstances.
To determine whether an event falls within “the course of employment,” courts look at a number of factors.
- The extent to which your company expected or required you to attend
- Any benefit the event confers upon the company
- The extent to which your company sponsored the event
- Whether the event took place on company property
- Whether the event occurred during regular working hours
- How regularly this event and others like it occurred
Here are some facts the court would weigh in an employee’s favor:
- The event occurred during regular working hours, but the business shut down for the day and only those attending the event would be paid.
- The event includes team-building exercises that are deliberately designed to boost morale and productivity.
- The event places the company’s employees in a social environment with potential clients, where networking and recruiting can occur.
- The company provided transportation to the event site.
- The company actively promoted the event.
- The event is considered “a company institution,” or is deeply engrained in the corporate culture.
These types of workers’ compensation claims are very fact-specific and, of course, insurance carriers resist paying them. So, if you are injured at an off-site or off-hours company event, be sure to consult an experienced workers’ comp attorney to see if you have a valid claim.