New Jersey Court Clarifies What Constitutes a Work-Related Injury
It is not uncommon for companies to host fundraising and community events and for company employees to work or attend the events. If an employee is injured during such an event, it may be disputed whether the injury is work-related so as to warrant an award of workers’ compensation benefits. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the distinction between work-related injuries and injuries sustained during recreational activities in a case in which an employee’s workers’ compensation claim was denied. If you were injured during a work event, it is prudent to contact a proficient New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to assess whether you may be owed benefits for your injury.
Facts Regarding the Employee’s Injury
Reportedly, the employee worked as a cook for the employer, a non-profit organization that provides services and vocational training to individuals with developmental disabilities. In September 2017, the employer hosted an event for the family members of its clients, which included food and recreational activities, such as music and games. The employee was not required to work the event but volunteered her services to the employer. She was not paid for her participation. During the event, she fell and injured her right ankle and foot.
It is alleged that the employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits following her injury. The employer argued that the employee was not entitled to benefits because she was not engaged in employment activities at the time of her injury. The workers’ compensation judge ruled in favor of the employer, finding that the employee was volunteering, not working, at the time of her injury. The employee appealed the judge’s ruling.
Injuries Arising Out of the Course and Scope of Employment
Under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law (the Law), employers have a duty to compensate employees for accidental injuries that arise while the employee is in the course and scope of his or her employment. The Law specifically excludes injuries that occur during social or recreational activities as qualifying injuries, unless the social or recreational activities are a regular component of the employment and the activities produce a benefit to the employer beyond improving employee morale and health. An injured employee bears the burden of proving an injury during a social or recreational event is a qualifying injury, and if he or she fails to prove either element of the test, his or her claim will be dismissed.
In the subject case, the appellate court found that the employee was not engaged in the course and scope of her employment at the time of her injury, as she volunteered and was not required to work. Further, the appellate court found that the family event was not a customary event of the employer, and therefore the employee failed to meet the first prong of the test. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Zealous New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you sustained injuries during a work event, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and should speak to an attorney about your case. The zealous New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm to determine whether you suffered a workplace injury that may warrant a workers’ compensation benefits award. We can be contacted through our form online or at 866-916-3549 to set up a conference.