Are my injuries covered by workers’ comp if they happened at a company retreat?

Question:

I work for a tech company. Our company usually plans a social event each quarter for team building and morale. For our most recent event, our company chartered a bus and drove us a couple hours away for an all-day retreat (on a Friday). While we were at the retreat, I slipped on some loose rocks and broke my leg. Will workers’ comp cover my injury?

Answer:

Workers’ compensation covers injuries that workers sustain through the course of their employment. Workers who are injured while performing work duties or running work errands are typically covered by workers’ comp. However, workers’ comp does not cover injuries that happen during an employee’s off-duty time, such as lunch breaks or the commute to and from work.

When it comes to injuries at company-sponsored social events, the rules differ from state to state. In most states, though, a key factor is whether attendance at the event was mandatory or voluntary. If attendance was voluntary and employees were free to go or not go, the injury usually won’t be covered by workers’ comp. However, if the employee’s participation was mandatory, the injury usually will be covered.

Even if your employer didn’t come right out and say that the retreat was mandatory, your injuries may still be covered if the circumstances suggested it was mandatory. In some states, injuries at company events are covered if the employee reasonably believed that attendance was required. For example, if the retreat agenda included goal-setting meetings that were going to be used for your annual performance review, you might reasonably think that you are expected to attend. And, in some states, if the employer gets a benefit from having the company event, that may be enough to bring the injuries into the scope of employment. For example, if the retreat had a variety of team building exercises designed to increase employee relations and productivity, that may be enough of a benefit to make your injuries covered through workers’ comp.

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