Injuries at company events in North Carolina may not qualify for workers' compensation benefits. Unlike conferences, training events, and presentations that require workers to travel, the type of events we are referring to are company picnics, parties, sport games, retreats, and similar social occasions. The latter types of company events are likely voluntary for employees. Since North Carolina workers' comp benefits are payable to workers who were injured during the course and scope of their employment, a voluntary recreational event may not be recognized as part of a workers' responsibilities.
A few years ago, a North Carolina workers' comp case involving an employee who was injured at a recreational work event prompted the North Carolina Court of Appeals to review standards for determining if injuries at these events would be compensable.
Worker's Compensation Act
In an opinion reported by the NC Court of Appeals for Frost v. Salter Path Fire & Rescue, and Volunteer Safety Workers' Compensation Funds:
The Worker's Compensation Act provides compensation only for injuries “arising out of and in the course of the employment.” N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-2(6) (2003). This Court has identified a list of relevant factors the Commission and Court may consider when determining whether compensation is appropriate for an injury sustained during an employer's recreational event. Chilton v. Bowman Gray School of Medicine, 45 N.C. App. 13, 15, 262 S.E.2d 347, 348 (1980). Chilton lists several questions to consider in determining whether to award compensation:
(1) Did the employer in fact sponsor the event?
(2) To what extent was attendance really voluntary?
(3) Was there some degree of encouragement to attend evidenced by such factors as:
a. taking a record of attendance;
b. paying for the time spent;
c. requiring the employee to work if he did not attend; or
d. maintaining a known custom of
(4) Did the employer finance the occasion to a substantial extent?
(5) Did the employees regard it as an employment benefit to which they were entitled as of right?
(6) Did the employer benefit from the event, not merely in a vague way through better morale and good will, but through such tangible advantages as having an opportunity to make speeches and awards?
Although the above was an opinion generated by the NC Court of Appeals specific to Frost's case, these are merely guidelines. There are no specific statutes addressing injuries at company-sponsored voluntary events. These situations are best reviewed by North Carolina workers' comp lawyer who has a successful record of winning cases and who is familiar with the state's response to unique cases as described above.
If you were hurt while traveling for work or at a company event, whether domestic or international, you have rights that are protected under the Worker's Compensation Act. Learn more about these rights by meeting with one of our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh and ordering a free copy of our book dedicated to North Carolina workers' compensation.