It is that time of year when employer’s have holiday parties and although no one is told to be there it is the “unspoken” rule that everyone must attend. So what if one is injured during the course and scope of the “holiday cheer” session?
Generally, there is no law specifically dealing with injuries sustained during the holiday party but there are rules applicable to company picnics or intramural recreation that would apply to help you determine if one’s injuries would be covered under these circumstances.
Both the State of Nebraska and the State of Iowa have adopted the test set out in 1A A. Larson, Workmen’s Compensation, § 22.00, at 5-71 (8th ed.1982)). Professor Larson states the general rule that recreational or social activities are within the scope of employment when:
(1) They occur on the employer’s premises during a lunch or recreation period as a regular incident of the employment; or (2) The employer, by expressly or impliedly requiring participation, or by making the activity part of the services of an employee, brings the activity within the orbit of the employment; or (3) The employer derives substantial direct benefit from the activity beyond the intangible value of improvement in employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life.
Gray v. State, 205 Neb. 853, 290 N.W.2d 651 (1980); Briar Cliff College v. Campolo, 360 N.W.2d 91, 94 (Iowa 1984),
The above rules can be demonstrated the best by giving you two examples the courts have distinguished the above rules. First, in the case of Shade v. Ayars & Ayars, Inc., 247 Neb. 94, 525 N.W.2d 32 (1994), Shade, his foreman, and several other employees began a game of touch football, which escalated into tackle football. During the game, Shade was tackled by the foreman and a coworker, and his head was driven into the ground by the tackle. The resulting cervical spine injury left Shade a quadriplegic. The Court found that the company did not receive “any substantial direct benefit from the activity ‘picnic’, although it may be inferred that it derived the intangible value of improvement in employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life,” and the claim was dismissed.
However, another example of applying the Larson rule can be found in the case of Briar Cliff College v. Campolo, 360 N.W.2d 91, 94 (Iowa 1984). Campolo was a college professor who died while playing on a faculty intramural basketball team. He was awarded benefits because the basketball game in which a faculty member had participated contributed to student retention, where the court found “student recruitment and retention are major concerns of the college to insure adequate enrollment and revenues.”
Thus, if you find that you are required to attend any company or employer holiday party this year, please pay special attention to the rule that encompasses an injury as arising in the course of employment if the employer derives substantial direct benefit from the activity beyond the intangible value of improvement of employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life.
Be careful out there! Anything can happen when you celebrate and have fun!