Recreational Injuries to Employees

Workers’ compensation may cover injuries sustained by employees participating in recreational activities.  The following four tests are applied to surrounding facts to determine compensability:

Did the accident occur on the employer’s premises?  A positive reply does not guarantee coverage.  If the employee was injured in a spontaneous recreational activity, even if on company property, s/he would be ineligible for workers’ compensation because the employer was neither benefiting from nor directing the activity.  Simply making recreational facilities available does not make the company liable, nor is it required to compensate for any injuries which might be sustained.

Was the event or team organized by the employer?  Company-sponsored teams competing in leagues may qualify for coverage.  However, several employees deciding to organize a team is different from a team organized by the employer.

Did the employer pay for the activity?  The rules are unclear whether this refers to the entire cost or a subsidy on behalf of the team.  For example, if the league charges $50 per person to participate, and the company pays $40 on behalf of each employee, an argument could be made that the team is still employer-paid or sponsored, with participation encouraged.

Does the employer benefit?  Advertising in the community on team shirts may improve employee morale and promote better teamwork.  An employer may indeed benefit from even such intangible recognition.


From Christopher Boggs’ “The Insurance Professional’s Practical Guide to Workers’ Compensation: From History through Audit” as referenced in Insurance Journal-National Region, Sept. 21, 2009 edition, p. N15.