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Injured During an Office Holiday Party?

In December, many employers will throw holiday parties in an attempt to boost morale and support their staff going into the holiday season. These parties are usually meant as a thank you to the employees for a job well done and as a fringe benefit to allow the employees to come together in a more collegiate way than just professionally. However, employers should beware: In Maryland, if a worker is injured as a result of attending a holiday party, he or she can get workers’ compensation.

Putting forth a workers’ compensation case requires that certain elements be met, and these elements can be more difficult when your case is not the typical one of an employee injured while carrying out tasks associated with his or her position. At a holiday party where there is usually alcohol, the employees are there for recreational and social purposes, not purely for work.

Factors that Can Help a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Maryland case law shows that holiday parties are part and parcel of a person’s employment and an injured employee may be able to get workers’ compensation if the following applies:

  • The injured employee was paid to attend the party, for example, if the holiday party is one of the fringe benefits outlined in the employee’s contract;
  • If the employer hosted the party on company property, especially when the property may not be a safe space and not conducive to holding large gatherings of people for recreational purposes;
  • If there was an implicit or explicit requirement that all employees attend the party; and
  • If there is a direct or indirect benefit that the employer derives from employees going to the party; for example, the party was held to improve relationships with clients.

Activity that Occurs During the Course of Employment

According to Maryland case law, when an employee is injured during a social or recreational activity, to determine whether workers’ compensation should apply, one must determine whether that employee was still acting as an employee. This analysis is to evaluate the following factors:

  • Whether the activity is customary
  • The extent to which the employer encouraged and subsidized the recreational activity;
  • The extent to which the employer supervised and administered the activity or event;
  • Whether the employer implicitly or explicitly required that the employees participate in the activity and if there is evidence to show that the employee felt compelled to attend the activity;
  • How much benefit does the employer derive besides an improvement of employee morale.

Factors that May Hurt Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

The following are factors that may hurt your workers’ compensation claim regarding your injury at a company holiday party and whether or not it occurred in the course of your employment:

  • If the activity was held outside of normal business hours and off company property;
  • If friends and family of the employee are invited and included in the activity;
  • The flyer or informational email about the event explicitly stated that there is no requirement for the employee to attend the party;
  • The employer did not encourage attendance or imply that not attending would adversely affect the reputation of the employee or his/her opportunities to be promoted in the future; and
  • There was no work-related activities or discussions occurring during the activity, such as a training and the absence of clients at the party.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Workers’ compensation is available in Maryland if you participate in a recreational and/or social activity that occurs in the course of employment. If you or a loved one has been injured while partying at the office party, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that your workers’ compensation claim is successful. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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