There are a lot of reasons a company might sponsor a recreational league or activity. Team building, employee camaraderie and building health and fitness are all great reasons to encourage off-the-clock recreation. What happens if you’re injured at a work-related recreational activity? Clients often hope they’re eligible for workers’ compensation to cover their medical bills and lost wages.
According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), “an injury or disability incurred during voluntary participation in an employer sponsored recreation or fitness activity is not compensable if the injured worker signed a waiver of the right to workers' compensation benefits prior to engaging in the recreation or fitness activity.” In other words, if you signed a form that acknowledges you understand the risks, and waive your right to workers’ compensation, you probably will not be able to collect benefits.
There are few exceptions where an employer might be held responsible for off-the-clock recreational injuries. A company might say the recreational activity is voluntary, while their actions indicate otherwise. If the activity is so ingrained into the work culture that one could not advance in their career without participating, or they mention the activity in a performance review, then that creates a gray area. When a reasonable person could infer that their success at work hinges on participation, the recreational activity may not be truly voluntary.
Typically, the BWC examines whether an off-the-clock activity is “in the course and scope of employment.” Was it required? Did the activity benefit the employer? Was it related to the job somehow? When the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” that’s an indication you should see an attorney—especially if you didn’t sign a waiver.
A smart employer will have employees sign a recreational waiver before sponsoring or encouraging off-the-clock fun. As an employee, make sure that you understand the risks before waiving your rights. The C-159 waiver form is straightforward: it asks the employee to list all employer-sponsored recreational and fitness programs to which they would like to waive their workers’ compensation rights. If you file a claim for any of the listed activities, your employer will simply submit a copy of your waiver.
You can certainly refuse to sign the waiver, but understand that doing so may prevent your participation.
When you have concerns about signing a waiver or work-related recreational activities, talk to a workers’ compensation attorney. Contact one of the experienced attorneys at Nager, Romaine, & Schneiberg Co. L.P.A. today.