Tis the season for holiday parties and functions, and inevitably, holiday party claims.
And as if on cue, the 1st DCA issued a ruling in Reynolds v. Anixter Power Solutions last week (link below). As a reminder, to be compensable, there are two requirements :
- The event must be mandatory; and
- The event has to be for beyond the purpose of morale.
In this case, the claimant was injured while attending a bowling work event during regular paid office hours. She was not given an option to stay at work or take a vacation day, thus making it the equivalent of mandatory. The purpose of the event was morale, but also to discuss next year’s office goals. Because it met both elements, the 1st DCA found it compensable. It is the same analysis for holiday events and parties.
Mandatory is usually easy to determine, and it must be expressly mandatory. Implied or guilt-tripping the claimant for not going probably isn’t enough. And it goes to the event itself, not whether or not if it was mandatory that a claimant bowl or participate. If they must be there, and they got hurt doing an activity there, that is enough.
It’s the second part that is often more unclear, the “beyond morale” component. The case law focuses on a business purpose of the event, such as clients being present. If a business meeting or awards are held 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 and a link to the case.
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.
Have a happy and injury free holidays!
Morgan Indek | Managing Partner