Workers’ comp may cover ‘recreational’ injuries

If employees get together for a recreational activity and someone gets hurt, is that covered by workers’ compensation? It depends. It can be, but there are usually many factors involved, including whether the recreation occurred during company time; whether the company encouraged, sponsored or required the activity; and whether the company benefited from the activity.

In one case in Hawaii, an employee was injured at an after-work bowling tournament. The tournament was intended to thank employees, and the employer encouraged everyone to attend. However, the Hawaii Court of Appeals said the injury wasn’t covered by workers’ comp because participation in the tournament was voluntary, it didn’t occur during paid time, and the employer got no particular benefit from the activity beyond improved morale.

On the other hand, an injury during a pick-up basketball game was covered by workers’ comp in a case decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In that case, workers were given two 15-minute paid breaks each day, during which they were required to remain on the premises so they could report to work promptly after the break. Employees often played basketball outside during the breaks, and one of them got hurt. The court said the injury was covered by comp because it occurred during paid time and because the employer received a benefit from having the employees remain on the site rather than going elsewhere.

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