Company-sponsored events, like retreats and picnics, are common and valuable ways in which businesses can boost morale, establish close bonds between team members, and reward employees for a job well done.
But what if an employee gets injured, or even worse, killed, at one of these events? This is not a topic generally thought about when planning a fun group activity, but it is an important legal issue for employers and employees to consider before an outing.
Under Colorado’s workers’ compensation law, employees are covered for any and all injuries that “arise out of and in the course and scope of employment” through their employer’s insurance. But determining whether or not coverage includes those injuries arising from company-sponsored recreational events away from the office is both fact- and state-specific.
Colorado is among one of the strictest states when it comes to compensation for death or injuries at a workplace function. In this state, companies are not liable for voluntary activities. (One exception is if the employer directly or indirectly requires employee participation and stands to benefit greatly from the activity.)
Many companies have established formal written policies on how outside events are to be managed, and some require employees to sign release forms which remove the company from liability completely. Employees should be aware of these stipulations before attending a company-sponsored event.
Ultimately, most rulings about compensation in these types of cases rely on whether the event or activity is deemed truly voluntary. Even if an event is said to be voluntary, but employees feel they are obligated to go out of fear, then there may be grounds for a function to be deemed involuntary, and injuries or death will be covered.
Liability for injuries or death at a workplace function must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Employers need not host an event for them to still be held liable for an injury or death that occurs. For instance, if a company directs a sales employee to attend an event sponsored by a customer, the employer could still be held liable if their sales staff member behaves negligently or wrongly, since the company stands to benefit from the customer favor gained by the salesman attending the event.
It cannot be stressed enough that employer liability in cases where an employee is injured or killed at a work function varies by state and the individual case, which is why it essential that you consult an attorney specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation in your area if you are seeking reimbursement.
If you have been seriously injured at a work event, or if a loved one’s death occurred at a workplace function, contact Colorado workers’ compensation attorney R. Mack Babcock to learn about your legal rights.