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Court rules that recreation can lead to work-related injuries

Many North Carolina employees are familiar with the fact that there are worker's compensation laws in place to protect them in the event of an injury sustained while they are on the job. In the vast majority of cases, whether or not an injury can be considered to have taken place within the scope of one's job is clear. However, there are certain areas in which the work-related injuries issue is not quite so easily addressed, as a nearby state's Supreme Court recently ruled.

The case at hand centered on a man who was injured during a company kickball game. When he applied for worker's compensation, he was denied. The reason given was that he was not required to attend the game as part of his job duties. The worker appealed, but the appellate court agreed that he was not required to attend, and the ruling stood.

In hearing the case, the state's Supreme Court took a different position. Because the injured employee was the person tasked with organizing the game, it was concluded that his attendance was necessary, and therefore a part of his job function. In addition, the court used testimony from one of the man's managers, who stated that he would have been "surprised and shocked" had the employee not been there. There were two justices who dissented, stating that even though the employee may have been required to attend the game, he was not clearly required to participate.

As this case demonstrates, the lines between when a worker can be considered to be "on the clock" can be blurred. In this case, other workers who showed up to the company event would not have been considered to be working. However, the man who came up with the concept and organized the event was able to assume that his participation was expected within the scope of his employment. For those in North Carolina who have been injured during an unpaid work event, this case might serve as clarification on whether or not such an incident might qualify as bringing about work-related injuries.

Source: ABC News, "State court: Workers' Comp OK for kickball Injury", Meg Kinnard, Aug. 27, 2014

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