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Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Employer-Sponsored Social Activities?

For an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, it must be work-related. In many situations, such as with a construction or industrial accident, it is easy to determine that a work-related accident caused an injury. However, workers’ comp cases are not always so clear. When an employee is injured during meal periods, employer-sponsored recreation or activities, or in transit, cases become much more complicated.

There are two basic questions to determine whether an injury is work-related:

  • Did the injury arise out of the employment?
  • Did the injury occur during the course of employment?

When an injury arises out of employment, work led to the injury. This includes injuries that occur under the following circumstances:

  • While travelling on behalf of an employer, unless there is a substantial detour
  • In employer-owned parking lots or employer restrooms
  • On employer premises during rest and meal periods

When an injury occurs during a social activity, determining whether it may be covered by workers’ comp may be even more complicated. Generally, California law says that workers’ compensation does not cover an employee injured while voluntarily participating in an off-duty recreational, social or athletic activity. However, injuries may be covered if the employer requires or reasonably expects employees to participate.

Some questions that may be considered to determine whether a social activity is in the course of employment include the following:

  • Did the employer actually sponsor the activity?
  • Was attendance really voluntary or did they take attendance, pay for attendance, require the employee to work if he or she did not attend, or have a known policy of attendance?
  • Did the employer substantially finance the activity?
  • Do employees considered it an employment benefit?
  • Did the employer obtain a substantial tangible benefit?

Since the line between work-related and voluntary activities is not always clear, you should always speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer when you are injured and believe it may be work-related.

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