Safety and OSHA News

Company takes ’em bowling then pays big for comp

Imagine this: A company sponsors a Family Fun night of bowling for its employees and their families to improve morale. One employee injures his back while bowling. Does he get workers’ comp because this was an employer-sponsored event?

If you’ve read up on workers’ comp cases, you may have already guessed that the answer is yes, he did get comp.

And it’s cases like this one that are prompting states to rewrite their comp laws. Tennessee just did.

In this particular case, Robert Powell, a Cedar Rapids Gazette employee, was one of 75 workers who participated in a family night of bowling sponsored by his employer.

The day after the event, he felt pain in his back and left leg. He underwent two rounds of surgery. He was placed on disability, but later lost his job because of a dispute over whether he was able to work, according to an article in the Des Moines Register.

Four years later, the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner awarded Powell more than $100,000 in benefits.

The commissioner pointed to a Supreme Court ruling that says if activities that led to an injury were for the benefit of the employer, or for the mutual benefit of the employer and worker, they should be treated as work-related.

So, should you cancel that employee picnic or your softball team? Employers get in trouble when:

  • employee attendance is expected
  • the event takes place during normal work hours
  • uniforms promoting the company are worn, or
  • transportation is provided to the event.

About one in four states have taken legislative action to limit workers’ comp awards for injuries that happen at company-sponsored events.

Tennessee’s governor signed one such piece of legislation into law in June. The new law states, “No compensation shall be allowed for an injury due to the employee’s voluntary participation in recreational, social, athletic or exercise activities (including, but not limited to, athletic events, competitions, parties, picnics and exercise programs) whether or not the employer pays some or all of the costs thereof.”

There are four exceptions:

  • required participation
  • participation that benefits the company in ways other than employee health or morale
  • events during work hours that are part of work duties, and
  • injuries due to an unsafe condition during voluntary participation using facilities designated by, furnished by or maintained by the employer, and the company had knowledge of the unsafe condition.

Should employers have to pay for employees’ injuries during company-sponsored recreational events? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. I also agree with the Tennessee Governor and his new law; and I also agree with the exceptions as stated there are too many people out there who have learned how to work the system to get on comp.

    These people really need a swift kick in the pants and maybe even spend a little time in the joint (but on mandated work release) cause what they are looking for is a free ride and those of us who work every day as I have for 40 years don’t need them sponging off of our hard work ethic.

  2. I have to say as a buisness owner this liability has made us cut back on our functions with our employees. We no longer have barbaques or invite any of the employees families to any function. I think that the people being hurt here are the employees themselves.It’s too bad that this is all the fualt of a few bad eggs.

  3. Gary D. Moore says:

    You have got to be kidding me. I cannot believe how soft this country has became. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about work/comp, welfare, foodstamps, unemployment or any other government sponsored program, they just give it away. I agree with what Tennessee has done, now if we could just get the Federal Government to tighten up it’s belt, we all would be better off. I cannot believe the way some of these court decision come out. Like they say,” you can’t fix stupid”.

  4. I 100% agree with Gary Moore. This country has indeed become soft. i have commented on several of the articles here and on other sites and have pointed that out too. I agree with all of those programs, they are all needed, for legitimate reasons.

    And Mr. Moore you are exactly right “You can’t fix stupid”. Until we all stand up, peacefully, and take control we will be seeing more and more “stupid”. I feel we are stupid for laying down for so long and letting this problem get out of control. When did it become that every person employed by or elected into the government had to be corrupt thieves? Is that a prerequisite?

  5. One of the first lessons I learned as a young safety professional in Uncle Sam’s Army was
    “no good deed goes unpunished”…

    Have a nice day!

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