Company events are organized for employees for a variety of reasons—to boost morale, improve workplace relationships, foster teamwork, celebrate a holiday or special occasion, or as a reward for hard work.
But what happens if you’re injured at one of these work events? Will you qualify for workers’ comp benefits? A lot of ambiguity surrounds whether an employer is legally responsible for an accident that happens to an employee during a work event, so it’s vital that you understand your rights as an injured worker under Arizona law.
While many people assume that the employer should be held responsible if an accident occurs during an event for work, legally, workers’ compensation only covers injuries that happen out of or in the course of employment. This article will explain what that could mean for your claim.
What does “in the course of employment” mean?
Social work events may be considered within the course of employment if any of these situations apply:
- The event happened on the work premises during either a recreational period or an established part of the work day. If, however, the event occurred off-site and outside of normal work hours when employees are off the clock, the injury will likely not be covered under workers’ comp.
- The employer or manager derived direct benefits from the activity or event (as may be the case in brainstorming or team-building exercises). If, however, the event only benefited the employee, the injury will likely not be covered under workers’ comp.
- The employer required participation in the event (either explicitly or implicitly). This may be applicable if the employer implied or stated there would be consequences for failure to attend the event. In many cases, if the event was purely voluntary, the injury may not be covered under workers’ comp.
Responsibilities of the employer, employee, and 3rd-party host
Ensuring safety in the workplace or at an off-site work event is a shared responsibility. To help decrease the possibility of an accident, employers, employees and 3rd-party hosts should all take appropriate measures.
The employer should ensure that:
- Safety measures are in place to minimize the chance of injury (regardless of the location).
- Established protocols exist so employees and employers know what to do if an injury occurs.
- Appropriate insurance coverage is obtained prior to the event to limit employer liability.
- Alcohol use is limited or prohibited.
During a company event, employees have some responsibility for their own safety. As an employee, you should keep the following personal responsibilities in mind:
- Familiarize yourself with the venue, including all exits and fire alarms.
- Do not use any machine or equipment during the event that you’re unfamiliar with that could endanger your safety or that of the other employees.
- Consider abstaining from alcohol use, even if alcohol is provided.
Third-party host responsibilities
The 3rd-party host has many responsibilities, including ensuring that:
- The event space is clean and safe, and all equipment is in proper working order.
- Emergency protocols are in place in case of an accident.
- Occupancy limits are adhered to, if applicable.
- Entry and exit points are clearly marked and accessible to everyone at the event.
What should you do if you’re injured at a work event?
If you get injured at a work event, it’s imperative that you don’t do anything to hurt your chance of being compensated. While it may not be immediately evident whether a particular event falls under the legal definition of being in the course of employment, you should take the following steps to ensure you remain eligible for any potential benefits.
- Seek immediate medical care. This is a vital step, even if you don’t initially feel that you sustained a significant injury, since many injuries take days or weeks to fully surface. A doctor can help establish that any injuries you incurred were a direct result of the accident, which is crucial if you want to qualify for benefits in any workers’ comp case.
- Notify your employer of your injury. This should be done as soon as possible after the injury and in writing when possible.
- File a workers’ comp claim. This must typically be done within 1 year of your injury or you risk losing your chance to receive compensation.
- Contact a workers’ comp attorney if your claim is denied. Legitimate workers’ compensation claims are denied every day, so make sure you speak with an attorney to find out if you have a legal right to compensation.
When to contact an Arizona workers’ comp attorney
Workers’ comp claims for injuries that happen at a work event can be more complicated than most. The best advice for anyone who suffers an injury during an off-site work event is to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
While not every injury that occurs at a work event will qualify for workers’ comp benefits under Arizona law, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can advise you on your chances of recovering benefits for your specific circumstances. If they believe you qualify, they can gather evidence for your case and negotiate with your employer and their insurance company to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.