As we start off the new year, we typically see new claims that occurred at Employer holiday events. Compensable? It depends.
(This same analysis applies to all events throughout the year, not just holiday parties. Bah Humbug!)
For an injury to be compensable from a recreational/social activity, two things must be true about the event:
- The event must have been mandatory; AND
- The event produces a benefit to the employer beyond boosting employee morale.
440.092 (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.
For the first requirement, it must be expressly mandatory. That’s beyond just pressure to go from the boss. It must be the employee is given no other choice but to attend.
The second part is a bit mushier. The event basically has to have no true work purpose beyond a “feel-good” event for employees. If there is official discussion of next year’s goals, awards, etc…it may have a work purpose/substantial direct benefit to the employer. Below is a good case that gives examples of both requirements.
As an aside, if the Employer provided the alcohol, you may not get an intoxication defense.
Karen Reynolds v. Anixter Power Solutions & Travelers Insurance Company
The Claimant suffered an injury while attending a bowling event during her paid work shift. The JCC determined the Claimant’s injury was not compensable, finding that the bowling trip was a recreational activity. The DCA reversed, finding the Claimant’s injury to be compensable on the basis that the activity was an expressly required incident of employment and produced a substantial direct benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale. Specifically, the DCA looked to the facts that the bowling event was during regular work hours; employees attending the event were paid; the injured worker was not told that she could have remained at work or taken a vacation day rather than attend; and the purpose of the event was to improve morale and discuss goals for the following year.
As always, feel free to run any scenarios by me.
Morgan Indek | Managing Partner