An Alabama attorney may successfully assert a client’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits when the client was involved in an accident while traveling to a work related event.
Employee John is headed to a company picnic held that evening. The event is to be held at a local park after the work day has concluded. After John clocks out and heads to the park, he is hit by an 18-wheeler and breaks his collarbone requiring a hospital visit, medical care, and a lengthy absence from work.
Workers’ compensation benefits are available when an employee is injured on the job, but what happens when an employee is injured on the way to a company event after hours? Is that employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits despite the company event being held after hours?
When determining whether a client’s injury may be compensable under a state’s workers’ compensation laws, a court will look to whether the employee had a choice in participating in the after-hours event. Where the employer requires attendance at the event, the injured employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
On the other hand, If the employee has an option of attending the event, then workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for the employee’s injury. However, an employer can expressly or implicitly require participation in the event, even though it is technically “after hours.” An express or implied requirement may arise where an employer places expectations on employee attendance, or applies pressure to convince employees to attend. As a result, a court may conclude that the event was mandatory and allow the employee to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
The degree of involvement which the company puts into the event also has an impact on an employee’s eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. If the company schedules the event, promotes the event, pays for food, or even creates t-shirts for employees to wear during the event, an injured employee in route or in attendance may be found eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
A court will also look at the primary purpose of the event. If the event is purely recreational in nature, the court may find the event to be solely in the interests of employees and outside the scope of employment for which no workers’ compensation benefits will be available. However, if the event is a celebration of outstanding sales where company executives give speeches on performance and how to improve in the future, the employer is incorporating work into the equation and an injured employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
An attorney in Alabama will have to examine the particular facts of the case in order to determine whether his client may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for an accident that occurs on the way to an after-hours work event.
Special thanks to our friend Bernard Nomberg, from The Nomberg Law Firm, for providing some insight into workers’ compensation practice in Birmingham, Alabama.