Some employers organize social events like softball games, happy hours, and going away parties, etc. for their employees, especially during the summer months. One might wonder what happens if a worker gets injured at one of those events? Would that injured worker qualify for workers’ compensation?
Most of the time, injuries that occur during social activities are not eligible for workers’ compensation. However, occasionally the social activity is closely enough related to the worker’s employment that it will fall under workers’ compensation. D.C. courts use a three part test to make that determination. First, the activity has to take place on the employer’s premises. Second, the employer has to require the employee’s attendance at the event, or require the employee’s services in organizing the event. Third, the employer has to derive a direct benefit from the activity or event.
Under this test, determining whether an injury at a work social event is compensable is very fact-specific. D.C. courts have ordered compensation for an employee injured at an office holiday party when the party was thrown to generate business and improve business relations. However, if the party had been off the employer’s premises and without any intent to generate business, there would not have been a valid workers’ compensation claim. D.C. courts have also allowed workers’ compensation benefits under this test for employees who were injured while organizing events after they had been asked to do so. For example, an employee who was asked by her employer to pick up a cake for a retirement party was able to recover workers’ compensation benefits when she injured herself at the grocery store. Nonetheless, most injuries at social events off work premises, organized for purely social reasons, or with no requirement to attend would not be considered work-related.