Your company has always tried to be a good corporate citizen by sponsoring everything from company picnics and tournaments to local sports teams and more.
What happens, however, if one of your workers is injured during some kind of recreational activity that’s loosely related to your business? Is your company responsible? The short answer is, “Maybe.”
It all depends on the nature of the off-duty recreation
Generally speaking, workers’ compensation is reserved for injuries and illnesses that occur in connection with work activity, and the law clearly states that off-duty athletic activity isn’t considered part of an employee’s job unless one of the following things is true:
- Your company requires the employee’s participation.
- Your company paid the employee to participate.
- Your company sponsored the activity in which the employee was injured.
What does that translate to in practical terms? Consider this example: You hold a company picnic and decide to hold a relay race of some kind as a team-building exercise. It’s fun, but it’s not exactly work – but your employees are required to be present and participate to the best of their abilities. If someone gets knocked over and injured in the process, they’re most likely entitled to worker’s compensation.
On the other hand, imagine you offer all of your employees a free membership at a nearby gym as a “perk,” hoping to encourage healthy habits and self-care, and one of your employees gets hurt while working out. Even though you paid for the gym membership, you didn’t require the employee to participate, nor pay them to do so. You also aren’t sponsoring their activity, since you merely made the benefit available to them. In that situation, your company is most likely not liable for their workers’ comp claim.
There are a lot of gray areas in workers’ comp claims, and knowing when to aggressively defend your interests can be difficult without the appropriate legal guidance.