Play Ball! (But Know Your Responsibilities)

company softballCompany sports games are a fun event where co-workers can get together to get a little competitive and bond with their fellow cube-mates. Sometimes those games can get intense and injuries can occur. But employees are not usually on the clock when these games take place and participation is usually voluntary, so how are those injuries handled as far as comp?

A case out of South Carolina may set the standard. The state’s Supreme Court says that Stephen Whigham is eligible for workers’ comp benefits for his injury during a company kickball game. He worked for a PR firm, Jackson Dawson Communications, and said he organized the kickball game for team-building. When he tried to make a base he shattered two of his leg bones and ultimately got a knee replacement.

Initially he was denied comp, but when the case got all the way up to the state Supreme Court, they determined that he was required to be there as part of his job so he was indeed eligible for work comp.

If you are thinking about initiating a game or league for your employees, take some things into consideration for workers’ comp purposes. If you assign your employees to attend or coordinate the event they may get comp, but employees who attend voluntarily may not be eligible. That is still a fine line though, because courts may look at the degree to which an event was actually voluntary. “Strongly encouraged aka you’ll be looked down on if you don’t come” can make a difference even if you label the event voluntary.

If you have sponsored the event in some way like paying for park space or providing equipment, the workers are paid to be there, the activity is on the employer’s property, or the employer receives some kind of benefit out of the activity, you may still be responsible for comp if an employee is injured.

What's your take? Continue the discussion with others over at the WCInsights LinkedIn Group.
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