In 2007, the NC Supreme Court held that the NC Workers’ Compensation Act applies to injuries occurring during social and recreational activities related to employment. Frost v. Salter Path Fire & Rescue, 361 N.C. 181, 185, 639 S.E.2d 429, 433. However, this question continues to come up frequently due to the unique set of circumstances surrounding this type of claim.
Just this month, the NC Court of Appeals held in Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., No. COA 14-1030, that an employee’s leg injury sustained during a game of laser-tag at an out-of-town mandatory sales and marketing conference was, in fact, compensable. The Court of Appeals considered the following six factors in its decision:
- Did the Employer sponsor the event?
- To what extent was attendance voluntary?
- Was there some degree of encouragement to attend?
- Did the Employer finance the occasion to a substantial extend?
- Did the employees regard it as an employment benefit to which they were entitled as of right?
- Did the Employer benefit from the event, not merely in a vague way through better morale and good will, but through such tangible advantages as having an opportunity to make speeches and awards?
In the Holliday case, the Court found that because the employer paid for the laser-tag event, expressed mandatory employee attendance, took attendance at the event and benefitted from the event, the injury was related to the employment and, therefore, compensable.
EMPLOYERS: If you are going to sponsor these types of events in North Carolina, be prepared that any injuries incurred by your employees could very well be compensable workers’ compensation claims.
ADJUSTERS: When faced with these types of claims and making a decision on whether to accept or deny a claim, ask the six questions posed by the Holliday court. If the majority of the answers are “yes,” you will more than likely be facing a compensable claim.