Batter’s Out?  Six tips for considering if Workers’ Comp applies to company sponsored events.

Summer is here and with its arrival of warm weather and evening light comes company sponsored events and sports teams.  What do you need to concern yourself with when planning the annual watermelon smash?  Are you liable for injuries sustained when the Dugout Rebels from IT take the field for the Tuesday night game?  The answer depends.  To help guide you as you plan and promote these great events, we have listed a few key points to consider below.  Remember, these events often serve as additional perks and enhancements to morale.  Therefore, don’t let concern regarding workers’ comp claims keep you from planning great events for your employees.  Just plan accordingly, be prepared and enjoy.  Here are the guidelines:
1. Is the event during working hours?  Events that are held after hours are often associated with less liability than those offered during core work hours.  That said, all factors are considered when determining the validity of a claim. After hours events do not always ensure a claim will not be approved. 
2. Consider the location of the event.  If off property, generally the event is seen as voluntary and not subject to workers’ compensation eligibility.
3. Make sure that the event participation is optional.  Requiring all employees to attend and/or participate suggests that the event is a part of required job duties. Correct perception of your expectations by your employees is important.  They need to truly understand the event is optional.  Sometimes strongly encouraging employees to attend implies that “optional” means “required” and employees feel forced to attend regardless of their desire to do so. 
4. If employees are compensated for their time playing or attending, this may increase their eligibility for workers’ comp should an injury occur. 
5. Do not allow alcohol at your events.  Doing so will potentially hold you liable. 
6. Consider having employees sign a waiver stating they are participating at their own risk and by their choice.  This suggestion applies more to sponsored sports teams and other physical activities at events.

The above will help reduce your liability, however, no business is exempt from the possibility of claims and/or legal action.  We suggest you create a policy for company sponsored social and team events and communicate it to your employees.  By incorporating all of these suggestions in to your planning, your company will be better prepared to deal with potential situations this season.  Enjoy your summer!