by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
Many companies host holiday parties as a way to celebrate a successful year, to boost employee morale and to thank employees for a job well done. Suppose an employee is injured while attending a company holiday party. Can the employee receive workers’ compensation benefits such as medical benefits or compensation?
An employee can pursue a workers’ compensation claim for injury arising out of his or her employment. When your job duties include climbing ladders and you fall off a ladder at work injuring your back, then you have been injured in the line and scope of your employment and you will receive workers’ compensation benefits. Injuries sustained while performing acts incidental to employment are compensable pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act and performance thereof is deemed to have arisen out of the employment.
The issue here is whether or not a company function rises to the level of “performing the duties of employment” or an “act of employment.” Alabama courts have determined that the claim for injury may arise from any activity where the employee is reasonably fulfilling the duties of the employment or engaged in doing something incidental to the employment.
Whether or not a company function is something incidental to employment hinges on the facts surrounding the function. A company party or function that is not required by the employer would not normally fall under the scope of employment necessary to make a claim. However, courts have found a company function to be a part of employment when the employer treats the party as a way of compensating employees or requires the employees to participate. The facts surrounding the event may be looked at in the aggregate or may raise the event to the level of employment activity on their own. Thus, a good indicator for whether you will be able to file a workers’ compensation claim for injuries sustained at a company function is the level to which your employer encourages your participation. If the employer compels attendance at the function, then it could be an activity of your employment.
Michael Scott: [checking out at a liquor store] All right, now, you’re the expert. Is this enough to get 20 people plastered?
Clerk: [Seriously considers] Fifteen bottles of vodka? Yeah, that should do it.
For example, if you are only able to receive employment awards, your yearly bonus is given out at the company holiday party, or similar motivators are in place then it would more than likely elevate the company holiday party to an activity of your employment. Further, if the employer subsidizes the event, then this fact lends itself to the theory that the event was part of the employment.
Alabama courts have given a broad definition as to what is an act incidental to employment. Once a company function is something incidental to employment then any injuries sustained at this function may qualify you for a workers’ compensation benefits. Similarly, we have previously discussed whether an employee on his way to a company picnic may receive workers’ compensation benefits.
If you have questions about whether your injury will be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Nomberg Law Firm today.
See also our video blog on this subject: https://youtu.be/phr5ow7albA
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.