Can you get compensation for an injury at a company-sponsored event or a business trip?
Picnics, baseball games and golf tournaments all sound like recreational activities to do on your off-time, but many companies host events that are meant to be fun while serving the purpose of building a close-knit team and making connections. Company-sponsored events and business trips can range from trade shows to charitable fundraisers, and it is often hard to tell when you are technically supposed to be at work and when your attendance is voluntary.
While no one minds getting paid to have some fun, a legal complication arises when someone gets hurt at a company-sponsored event or business trip. Right now, you might be trying to decide if you should take part in a risky adventure such as zip-lining when you know that you can’t afford an injury. Or you may have already sprained your shoulder while throwing that winning pitch during the company’s softball game.
In Georgia, you have the right to a safe work environment. Period.
But questions arise when you aren’t sure if an event counts as “being at work.” Employers and their insurance companies often initially dispute or deny claims that involve an employee who was hurt during an event where they weren’t considered to be working, which can dramatically impact whether or not you qualify for workers’ compensation.
The question of whether such an injury is covered by workers’ compensation is hotly contested, and you may find that you will be asked the following questions to determine whether or not your employer is liable for your medical costs and lost wages.
Was the event held during working hours?
One way to understand if your injury should be covered is to take a look at when it happened. Many company-sponsored events are hosted on a normal workday, which could cause you to have to make a choice between getting paid or taking a vacation day.
If this was the case, then getting injured at a company event should be covered due to the expectation that you would be paid for participating. If the event occurred outside of your normal working hours, then you may have to dig a little deeper to see if you fall within the guidelines for workers’ compensation eligibility.
Was your attendance required?
Your attendance at a company-sponsored event typically falls under either the category of mandatory or voluntary. When a company informs its employees that an event is mandatory, they are making attendance part of their normal job duties. This is also true if you were given the option of either going to the event or continuing to work as you normally would that day.
Judgments on workers’ compensation cases tend to view voluntary company events and trips differently. Choosing to go to the event during a time when you aren’t required to be “on the clock” might be viewed as if you attended any other type of activity during your time off. For example, workers’ compensation might not apply if you went to an optional picnic on the weekend or after-work Happy Hour with colleagues.
Did you face professional repercussions for opting out?
Employers sometimes try to mix business with pleasure. For example, they may host a business meeting at the end of a recreational team-building activity. Or there could be a team-building component to the event that could leave you out of the loop if you didn’t attend.
Although this can be a hard one to challenge on your own, a workers’ compensation lawyer could argue that the event could be deemed mandatory if your career or reputation was at risk for choosing not to go.
Were you assigned job duties during the event?
Many company sponsored-events require employees to help out. This is common with conventions, awards ceremonies and trade shows. For example, a building maintenance worker who gets injured while setting up tables and electronic equipment for a speech during an awards dinner might be covered under workers’ compensation—provided that their professional expertise was needed.
Did your employer sponsor the event?
Determining who is liable for covering an injury gets even more complicated when there are multiple corporate or charitable entities involved. An event that seems company-sponsored might not be if your company was merely attending along with other groups or supporting an activity that was hosted by another organization. This is common with charitable events where you might have been asked to volunteer to run a marathon or check people in.
One way to tell if your employer sponsored the event is to find out if they funded the majority of it or if their logo or name was on the marketing materials.
Did the accident occur at your normal jobsite or workplace?
When a company-sponsored event occurs at your worksite, it’s common for there to be confusion when an accident or injury occurs. For instance, you might have thought that you were expected to get some work done while you waited for the event to start. Or you might’ve been asked by a superior to help with a task that falls within your job duties since they are used to seeing you in that position.
Even if your injury occurred off-site, it could still be covered if you were asked to meet at work and travel together to a different location.
Most employers in Georgia are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. However, it’s easy to see how quickly the lines get blurred regarding employer responsibility for an injury when you are at a company-sponsored event or on a business trip. Since being paid for your lost wages, medical bills and the other costs associated with your injury is important, don’t automatically assume that you won’t be covered just because you were at a special event.
Consulting with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer is the best way to sort out what really happened and determine if you have a valid workers’ compensation claim. Contact our team at Gerber & Holder Law today to schedule your free consultation and find out if you have a case. We’re ready to fight for your rights.