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Summer Events and Workers Comp – Yes, They Go Together!
Summer Events and Workers Comp – Yes, They Go Together!
By Peg Kramer, Claims Counselor
Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
Its summer time, and that means company picnics, fund raisers, and vendor sponsored events.  You may be wondering:
“If my employee gets hurt swinging that golf club, is that injury covered under workers compensation?”
To find the answer, let’s think like a claims representative.  Here are the guidelines claim representatives follow in their investigations.
Recreational Functions off Premises
Vendor Sponsored Events:  Vendors’ recreational activities with their customers, such as fishing or hunting trips, are not deviations from employment if the activities are authorized or directed by the employer.  Case law Continental Cas. Co. V. Industrial Comm’n, 26 Wis. 2d 470,132 N.W..2d 584 (1965).  If you mandate that your employees must participate in a vendor-invited off-site activity and they are injured, this is a workers compensation claim and must be reported to your insurance carrier in a timely manner. 
Voluntary Company Picnic:  A company party or picnic is not by itself sufficient to bring the activity within the course of employment as they are typically voluntary. 
Company Directed Events:  Certain off-premises recreational events, however, may be found to be in the course of employment.  For example, in a case in which the employee was injured while participating in a donkey baseball game as part of a company fund-raising event for youth baseball, the Labor Industry Review Commission (LIRC) determined that the activity arose out of and was incidental to the employee’s employment.  This was determined by the following factors:
  1. The employee was subject to the employer’s rules of conduct while participating in the event.
  2. Participation was part of his job description and was considered in his performance evaluation.
  3. The participation benefited the employer, and the employer actively solicited employee participation in the event.
The ultimate question that arises regarding these situations in a worker’s compensation hearing process is this:  “Mr. Employer, was there a benefit that was derived from this activity where your employee was injured?”  If the answer is yes, that claim will be paid by your insurance carrier.  There would be little to no defense of an employee’s injury if the employer answers “yes” to that question. 
As crazy as it seems, there have been several occasions where this has occurred and the claims were deemed compensable.  Here is an actual example. A company picnic was held during the summer, off-premises, for a small field operation.  The employee dove off a dock and fractured his neck after diving into the lake.  The next year this same employee was accidentally struck by another employee and seriously injured at an off-site company picnic.  He was required to be at the events, so workers compensation was his first recourse for those injuries.  In these instances, if the employer had not mandated employee’s attendance, these would not be considered in the course and scope of employment and the claims would have been denied. 
As an employer you must consider the risks that can occur when you hold company gatherings off-site, if you are mandating employee participation.  Even if you have a dedicated charity that you support and require employee participation in the activity or event, it is for your benefit. Any injuries that occur to employees can be found to be compensable (accepted) claims.
Recreational Functions on Premises
If you hold recreational activities on site and an employee is injured while participating in them it is very difficult for you to challenge the compensability for those injuries under workers compensation. The assumption again would be that the activity arose out of and was incidental to the employee’s employment.
Knowledge is power.  Be aware of your risk, take steps to mitigate it, and have a fun and safe summer.
Author Bio
Peg Kramer has over 20 years of experience in the Claims field. She joined Hausmann-Johnson Insurance as a Claims Counselor in 2014, and focuses primarily on Workers Compensation. Prior to Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, Peg was an All Lines Field Adjuster, and also managed QBE’s Workers Compensation Claims Department. She graduated from UW Platteville with Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology.
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