Employer-sponsored events are a pervasive part of corporate culture. Employers either ask or strongly encourage their employees to participate in various events.
Such was the case in a recent New Jersey case recently decided by the State Supreme Court.
Here are are the facts of the case:
“On September 23., 2017 [Jersey Friendship House] hosted a ‘Family Fun Day’ event for clients and families, and asked employees if they would volunteer. Mrs. Goulding offered to cook, and while she was preparing to grill she stepped into a small pothole on the grounds and fell, injuring her right foot and ankle. She applied for workers compensation, which was denied by a workers comp judge.” –Business Insurance.
The judge in the case used the standard that volunteering for the company did not produce a “benefit to the employer” beyond boosting employee health and morale. The Supreme Court disagreed.
Thus, yes, in some cases you can be covered by worker’s compensation while volunteering at an employer-run event. However, you should be aware of a few key facts which can impact whether you would be covered or not.
Were family and friends invited to the event?
One of the major deciding factors for the judge in this case was the fact that family and friends were not invited to the event. Instead, it was mostly the regular clients of the employer, which meant it provided a benefit to the employer in the form of community goodwill and PR.
The purpose of the event you’re volunteering for and the people who are invited might matter a great deal in your specific case.
Are you participating in employer-sponsored volunteerism?
Employee-sponsored volunteerism is something of a different matter. This is defined as “organizational support, often in the form of paid leave or sponsorship, for employees pursuing volunteer opportunities or performing community service.”
This is a benefit provided to you, the employee. It is something done for the employee’s morale and well-being. You’re being paid to do it, but the employer is not making you do it. If you got injured while participated in employer-sponsored volunteerism then it would be unlikely that a worker’s compensation claim would be successful.
Were you a volunteer firefighter?
Volunteer firefighters have already been covered by an NJ Supreme Court decision issued in 2019. Volunteer firefighters receive maximum compensation from the township, regardless of their outside employments status at the time of the injury.
Similarly, volunteer first aid, rescue squad workers, reserve police officers, auxiliary police officers, elected officials, appointed officials, and school board members can receive compensation from government organizations if they are injured while performing these duties. This makes sense, as these positions are vital to the smooth functioning of the companies involved.
Got questions about your case?
Not sure whether your volunteer service is covered in your specific case? Reach out to Talone Law to schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to help.