Injuries While Attending Social Events or Recreational Activities Organized by Your Employer Will Not Be Compensable Unless the Attendance Was Required
Docket No. A-0083-20
Decided June 8, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed whether an injury that occurred while an employee attended holiday party was compensable.
In Regalado, Respondent sells and installs residential garage doors. The business is owned by Frida Ferrera. As an office manager, petitioner’s responsibilities included processing orders, billing clients, answering phones, and other clerical work. She worked three to five days a week and was paid $82 per day. On Friday, December 23, 2016, respondent hosted its annual holiday party at a local restaurant. Each employee was encouraged to invite a friend or family member to the event. Only respondent’s employees and their guests attended; there were no clients, business associates, or vendors. Ferrera organized the annual parties to thank respondent’s employees for their hard work throughout the year.
Petitioner invited her brother, as she had done in the past. Neither petitioner nor her brother drove, so Ferrera agreed to provide transportation to and from the event. On the night of the party, Ferrera and her friend, Elka Martinez, brought petitioner and her brother from their home to the restaurant. The vehicle was owned by Martinez, who was not employed by respondent. Each of respondent’s guests were permitted to order food and cocktails as they pleased during the event. Everyone except Ferrera consumed alcohol. Petitioner was not paid to attend and was not compensated for her travel time.
The party ended around midnight. After Ferrera paid the bill, she left with petitioner, her brother, and Martinez. Ferrera drove to her own house, where she exited the vehicle and Martinez got into the driver’s seat. Minutes after leaving Ferrera’s house, Martinez’s vehicle hit a parked car, flipped over, and came to rest on its roof. Petitioner and her brother were taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital from the scene of the accident. She was treated in the emergency room and discharged the next day; she was not admitted. As a result of her injuries, petitioner required surgical procedures to her neck and jaw, and now has difficulty carrying anything that weighs more than ten pounds.
Petitioner sought benefits through worker’s compensation but the Judge denied the claim, finding that the holiday event was not compulsory, and there was no benefit for employees to attend other than morale. Petitioner appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the recreational or social activity exception to worker’s compensation applied, and that because morale was the only benefit, the claim was not compensable.
In order for a claim to be compensable, it must arise out of the scope of employment. Injuries while attending social events or recreational activities organized by your employer will not be compensable unless the attendance was required or that the employees gained some benefit other than health or morale. For instance, in employees are offered any time of compensation for the activity, this may turn the injury into a valid claim.
If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, you need to make sure you contact a workers’ compensation attorney with experience today. These attorneys can answer all of your questions regarding temporary benefits, medical bill payments, permanent injury, and the nuances of workers’ compensation law. Do not hesitate to contact Hark & Hark today to discuss your personal injury.
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