In another victory for workers, a man who was injured on a company outing to a laser tag facility was found to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled the victim is to be awarded temporary total disability benefits and this decision was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
The facts of the case are fairly straightforward and an example of how employers are trying to duck out of paying for an employee’s injuries during “fun” work activities. In this case, the man was a manager and sales representative for Tropical Nut and Fruit Co. He attended the company’s annual sales and marketing conference in Charlotte. The conference included various training sessions, strategy meetings, awards, networking, and team-building opportunities. Attendees were also required to participate in various recreational activities that were assigned to them on the first night of the conference. During one of these activities, a game of laser tag, the victim felt pains in his leg. After the conference was over, the man found out he had torn the meniscus in his right knee. The injury required arthroscopic surgery and it was recommended he get a total knee replacement. The man filed for a worker’s compensation claim but the company denied his request.
This case is a positive step forward for workers, not just because the worker won his case, but because such recreational activities are becoming increasingly more popular as employers are trying to create a more enjoyable office culture and experience. If you are hurt during such an activity, it can be confusing as to whether it counts as work or not. In this case, and in many cases, the company paid for the recreational activity. Furthermore, attendance and participation to the overall conference itself was mandatory. Arguably this means participation in these recreational activities was also mandatory and not just a fun bonus an employer may provide. At the end of the day, while activities such as laser tag are fun and recreational, they do serve a larger business purpose for the employer. As such, if you are hurt while engaging in something like the laser tag event in this case, it is not unreasonable to assume the company will cover your injuries if you are hurt.
Fortunately, the court in this case agreed. The commission and the court found the recreational events were an essential part of the conference (the mandatory conference) and served a larger business purpose for Tropical Nut and Fruit. As such, the company was ordered to provide temporary total disability benefits “any medical treatment reasonably required to effect a cure and provide relief for his right knee injury.”
There is no guarantee a court will rule in an employee’s favor every time they are hurt while engaging in a company-sponsored recreational activity, but this is not the first time the North Carolina courts have ruled in favor of the injured worker. It is an undeniable fact that trying to create a more enjoyable work environment with greater overall benefits is becoming an integral corporate strategy. The courts recognize this and how it expands the interpretation of what is considered a work-related injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured while on a “work outing” or while enjoying a work promoted “recreational activity,” you may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. Even if the company turns you down, there is an opportunity to challenge its decision. Please contact an experienced worker’s compensation lawyer who can help you with your claim.