Tis the season for holiday parties and functions, and inevitably, holiday party claims.
If its an in-office event during the workday its likely going to be compensable. The events offsite, afterhours or when the workplace is closed are trickier.
As a reminder, to be compensable, there are two things that both must apply:
- The event must be mandatory; and
- The event has to be for beyond the purpose of morale.
Mandatory is usually easy to determine, and it must be expressly mandatory. Implied or being made to feel guilty for not going probably isn’t enough.
It’s the second part that is often more unclear, the “beyond morale” component. The caselaw focuses on a business purpose of the event, such as clients being present. If a business meeting or awards are held during or at the event, then it may go beyond morale. For the claim to be compensable, it must meet both requirements, mandatory AND beyond morale purposes.
As for the intoxication defense, if the employer supplied or allows the alcohol, arguably they have acquiesced and you lose that defense.
These are always fact specific. Here is the statute.
440.092 Special requirements for compensability; deviation from employment; subsequent intervening accidents.—
(1) RECREATIONAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES.—Recreational or social activities are not compensable unless such recreational or social activities are an expressly required incident of employment and produce a substantial direct benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life.