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Company Picnics and Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to play. Company softball teams, volleyball games and the Company picnic are great morale boosters, but what if an employee gets hurt? Is the employee covered by workers’ compensation? What if alcohol is served and that led to the injury? While the answers depend on the particulars, including local law, here are a few tips on how to reduce exposure while taking advantage of fun filled summertime events: 
  • Workers’ compensation generally applies to injuries occurring during “the course of employment.” Since some courts have held that mandatory attendance at a recreational event places it within the course of employment, attendance should be totally voluntary. Also, why turn a fun activity into a mandatory event? If it needs to be mandatory, redesign it! Finally, if possible, schedule the event during non-work hours.
  • Holding the picnic or other activity at an off-site location helps shift potential liability away from the company. This also helps take the activity outside of the course of employment.
  • Workers’ compensation generally exempts claims for injuries employees sustain as a result of one’s own intoxication. However many states allow third parties who are hurt by intoxicated employees to sue the “social host” who served the alcohol. When hosting a social event that includes alcohol, hire outside caterers to serve the alcohol – this helps insulate the Company, should problems arise. Instruct the caterer not to serve alcohol to anyone who has already consumed a lot of alcohol (if they know) or who appears intoxicated or on the verge of intoxication. If intoxication is seen, ensure a designated management representative is notified.
  • Designate certain management personnel to attend and “oversee” the event and publicize their role to everyone.

For additional tips on minimizing alcohol-related liability, please see our B&A Tip of the Month for November 2008: Planning Holiday Parties. For assistance on these and all types of employment-related issues, please contact one of our attorneys.

Brody and Associates wishes all our clients and friends a safe and fun-filled summer.