Most employers hold some sort of recreational or social activities throughout the year (for example, company softball tournaments or holiday parties), and injuries tend to occur at these events. Injuries at these types of events were once so common, that in 1980, the New Jersey Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 34:15-7, which provides that injured employees will not be entitled to benefits “unless such recreational or social activities are a regular incident of employment and produce a benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale.” So, for example, injuries sustained in a fall while dancing at the office Christmas party are unlikely to be compensable, because holiday parties generally provide no benefit to the employer other than to boost company morale. However there are exceptions to this rule.
If an employer compels his or her employees to participate in such an event or activity, any injuries sustained are likely to justify the award of Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is referred to as the “Lorenzo rule.” Even if an employer “pressures” or “encourages” employees to attend the company party or recreational event, a court might consider that the employer has compelled their employees’ presence, and an injured employee may be able to collect workers’ compensation. Similarly, if participation in a company party results in an additional bonus in compensation, injured employees would likely be covered. If awards or accolades are granted at the event, it is also likely to be considered a part of one’s employment, and any injuries would likely be compensable.
For example, in one case, a volunteer firefighter was injured playing on the team’s softball team and was not awarded workers’ compensation because his participation was not a mandatory condition of his employment. In another case, an employee was asked by his supervisor to arm wrestle during work hours, and the employee was injured. He was denied workers’ compensation benefits because the employer derived no benefit from the activity.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Represent Workers Who Have Been Injured at Company Parties and Events
Not all cases will be so clear as these examples; there are many grey areas and uncertainties in the law. The outcome of each particular case is highly dependent on the facts of the situation. If you have questions about a workplace injury, the experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Shebell & Shebell can help. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Keansburg, Asbury Park, Long Branch, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today.