MO Industrial Commission Upholds Denial of Benefits Due to Recreational Activity
The Missouri Industrial Commission upheld a denial of benefits on August 22, 2018, in the case of Wilkerson v. CMMG (click to read the decision), upholding a denial of benefits for a claimant injured in a voluntary recreational activity.
Claimant was injured while playing volleyball at lunch on the Employer’s property. Employer denied the claim citing that the injury occurred while claimant was involved in a voluntary recreational activty. The most important evidence in the case was that claimant was NOT being paid at the time of his injury.
The ALJ denied the claim and the denial of benefits was upheld by the Industrial Commission. Here’s why: Under Section 287.120.7, injuries that occur as a result of a voluntary recreational activity are NOT compensable, UNLESS:
“(1) The employee was directly ordered by the employer to participate in such recreational
activity or program;
(2) The employee was paid wages or travel expenses while participating in such recreational activity or program; or
(3) The injury from such recreational activity or program occurs on the employer’s
premises due to an unsafe condition and the employer had actual knowledge of the
employee’s participation in the recreational activity or program and of the unsafe
condition of the premises and failed to either curtail the recreational activity or program
or cure the unsafe condition.”
Point (2) is what makes most similar claims compensable. If the claimant is a salaried employee or gets a paid lunch break, even accidents that occur while doing most any recreational activty will be deemed compensable. Since, in the present case, claimant was NOT paid at the time of the injury, this claim was properly denied and the denial was upheld by the Commission.
It’s OK to allow employees to play on their lunch breaks or even at company picnics, but understand that under present law, these injuries will be compensable if the claimant is being paid at the time of the injury, regardless of how “recreational” the activity may be.
I am working on legislation for 2019 that will remove Point (2) listed above. That way, employers can allow employees to play ball, run, or engange in other recreational activities during work breaks without being penalized by facing liability from a workers compensation claim.
If you want to discuss how this decision might affect any specific circumstances that you are dealing with, just let me know.