Now is the season for company picnics, business retreats and other work-sponsored summer events. With these comes additional liability issues for employers. From workers’ compensation claims to impaired driving accidents or sexual-harassment charges, special events can expose employers to serious risks.
Here is a common scenario—Your company gives its employees half a day and hosts an employee-appreciation picnic during the second half of the work day to honor the hard work they’ve put in this quarter. What happens if an employee is injured during the event? Is he or she entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits?
If your company picnic is held during normal working hours, then employees may be considered to have been attending within the course of employment. To determine whether the picnic was within the course of employment, courts will examine the following:
- whether employees were required to attend;
- the degree of sponsorship or participation by the company
- whether the event took place on company property
- whether the event was held during business hours; and
- the frequency of such events.
Several courts have recognized that an employee’s voluntary attendance at an employer-sponsored event—off the employer’s premises and outside of normal working hours—cannot reasonably be viewed as conduct within the scope of his or her employment.
However, if it appears employees were assigned to attend the event, they may receive benefits. For example, if your employees are tasked with choosing between attending the company picnic or using time off, it may appear their job assignment for that day required them to attend. Therefore, the employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for any injuries that occur during the picnic.
It is important for your company not to require attendance at company-sponsored events. Mandatory attendance at functions can result in workers’ compensation claims if one of your attending employees is injured. In that case, the employee will be considered to have been acting in the course of employment.
If you are planning a company-sponsored event this summer, be sure to take precautions to minimize your risks. Taking a little time to plan can help make your event safe and fun! Contact our agency, to make sure you have all the proper coverage in place.