There isn’t much time before Christmas, but there’s still a lot of holiday partying between now and then. There’s also the New Year.
Both holidays, and other holidays celebrated at this time of year, can mean holiday party invitations start showing up in your inbox.
Thinking about how workers compensation might intersect with your party may not be the first thing on your mind. You’re probably thinking about what you want to wear, or whether you’ll have to buy any gifts.
Still, it’s important to know what happens if you get injured, because in some cases your party attendance could be covered by workers compensation. There are a handful of instances in which parties could be compensatable.
The party happens every year.
Parties that happen on an annual basis are considered to be “regular incidents of employment.” This would cover any party that you can expect to roll around like clockwork, including Christmas parties, company picnics, and other celebrations.
The party is about something other than “morale.”
This is a harder standard to meet unless the party has some clear goal that benefits the company in some way. If your nonprofit employer is running a fundraiser then you would have a party which falls under this particular requirement.
Another example would be parties wherein the end-of-year bonuses or awards are handed out.
Attendance is compulsory, or has the appearance of being compulsory.
Most employers don’t go around screaming that party attendance is mandatory. In fact, it’s pretty rare to get fired from a holiday party, unless it takes place during normal business hours and you’re being compensated for the time.
That doesn’t mean the law doesn’t recognize that social pressure can create compulsion too. For example, if your manager makes it a point to “encourage” party attendance in a way that makes it seem like you’d be angering the boss by failing to go then attendance at least has the appearance of being compulsory. Employees are certainly aware that failing to attend could have an adverse affect on their careers.
Indeed, employers can make attendance mandatory if they want to. It’s just usually bad legal practice to do so.
The party is on company grounds or during work hours.
At this point you’re essentially still “at work” and an injury at the party would be treated like any other injury you may receive.
While it’s always tempting to reach for alcohol at a company event you should think twice, even if you have only one. While workers compensation will cover driving time to and from eligible parties, it will not cover you if alcohol contributed to your accident in any way.
It’s all too easy for an employer to make a case that indicates any alcohol in the system was enough to relieve them of liability.
Should you avoid attending the party if its not covered? Probably not. You’re not necessarily covered at a friend’s party either, unless you get hurt via some act of negligence. Of course, if you’re not going to have fun and the party isn’t covered, that may be a great reason to steer clear.