Batter Up! But What if I Get Hurt While Playing for My Company’s Softball Team?
You’re up at bat during a softball game that is being sponsored by your company. You swing for the fences and bolt as fast as you can to first base. Your co-worker’s up next. He cracks a bat and sends that ball flying to the outfield, so you run the bases. Yes! You can even make it home but you’ve gotta run like the wind!
As you tap third base and slide into home, there’s another crack. Crap! It’s your ankle! Next thing you know, the paramedics arrive and you’re off to the hospital with some broken bones.
As you wait in the emergency room, the thought crosses your mind: Could this be a worker’s comp claim?
Generally speaking, if an accident occurs during a company-sponsored recreational activity, the answer is yes; but if the accident arises out of simply a group of co-workers playing ball together, the answer is generally no. Ohio law provides for recreational waivers, exempting employers from workers’ comp liability, but be aware that such a waiver may instead open the employer up for a law suit (stay tuned, as that is the subject for a later blog post).
So how do you know if the activity is “employer sponsored”? Typically, the factors that the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (or a court) will consider in determining this are as follows:
- The employer paid for and/or organized the activity.
- The activity was conducted on the employer’s premises (or the employer paid for rental of the premises).
- The employer supervised the activity.
- The employer paid the entry fee.
- The employer purchased uniforms or equipment.
- Only employees participated in the activity.
- The employer received an economic or intangible benefit.
Employer-sponsored wellness programs
More and more companies are offering wellness programs because they are proven to have lots of intangible benefits—everything from increased productivity to improved employee relations. So what if you are participating in an activity as part of a employer wellness program and you get injured?
For example, you’re working out a local fitness center and you wrench your back while doing dead lifts. Will your employer’s workers’ compensation policy cover you? In this case, the general answer is no, because your employer is not in control of the types of activities you decide to engage in, and your employer is not supervising your workout. Even if you argue that you would not have participated in working out at this facility without the wellness program, you still are generally not covered by workers’ comp.