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Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation May Provide Coverage for Injuries Suffered at Holiday Work Events

Holiday parties are a popular way to close out the year.  Many companies choose to host a celebration, inviting coworkers to mingle and enjoy a festive atmosphere.  At some of these parties, employees suffer injuries, raising the question of whether they may be entitled to benefits through Pennsylvania workers’ compensation.

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act protects injured workers following workplace accidents or illnesses.  Employees who are unable to return to work in full capacity can recover disability payments and payments for medical costs as well as missed wages from work.  To receive these benefits, the general rule is that an injured employee must have suffered injuries in the course and scope of employment.

In certain situations, workers may have a workers’ compensation claim for injuries suffered during holiday parties, which may not necessarily be deemed “in the course and scope of employment.”  Case law involving workers’ compensation eligibility for injuries at holiday parties makes clear that the following factors can help determine whether a holiday party injury is compensable:

  1. Did the employer encourage or make attendance at the party or event mandatory?
  2. Was the event furthering a special interest of the employer, such as morale or good relations?
  3. Did the event help to improve or maintain the employee’s skills? 
  4. Did the party take place on company property or the employer’s property?

Regarding the requirement that employees attend their holiday party, simply because attendance is not mandatory does not mean this factor has not been met.  Some employers encourage attendance, and the facts must be examined in detail in order to assess whether attendance was in fact “encouraged.”

Voluntary events may not be sufficient for an injured employee to state a claim, but for those that are deemed “voluntary” but in reality affect employment status, workers’ compensation may cover the injuries.  For example, if an employer presents awards or accolades at these holiday parties, the party may be deemed part of employment. Alternatively, courts typically deny coverage to employees who were clearly not required to attend, and when attendance had no bearing on their employment status.

The second factor  – showing that the employer intended for the event to further the interest of the company, as a morale boost or to encourage strong relationships among co-workers – is fact sensitive. The burden would be upon the employee to show that the event furthered the interest of the employer.

To strengthen a claim following a holiday party injury, it is important to report the injury to your supervisor or employer immediately.  Additionally, maintain records of all medical care because these will be necessary to your claim for compensation.

If you or a relative or friend suffered injuries at a company holiday party, contact the skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law to understand your legal rights and obligations.  We provide a complimentary consultation and can be reached by calling 570-344-1266 or contacting our office through our online form.

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