It’s that time of the year again—companies are throwing holiday parties and hosting marketing events. All with alcohol, and most taking place during the evening. What happens if an employee is injured while attending one of these events?
Can the employee receive workers’ compensation benefits, such as temporary disability checks and medical treatment? Can an injured employee still receive benefits if he or she wasn’t paid to attend the event? Is workman’s comp available if alcohol contributes to the accident?
If You Are Paid To Attend the Event
Illinois law makes it clear that if an employee is attending an event at the request of his or her employer, and being paid for attending the event, any injury resulting from the work at the event is considered a work-related injury and benefits should be provided.
If You Are Not Paid To Attend The Event
The issue becomes more complicated if the employee is not being paid to attend the event. In most cases, if the employee feels any pressure whatsoever to attend the event, an injury occurring at the event would be considered a work-related injury. If the employer compels or strongly encourages participation, it could be fairly said that a resulting injury is work-related. In addition, Illinois law makes it clear that if the employee feels that his or her standing in the company would be affected by missing the event, a resulting injury is likely treated as work-related.
The Epstein Law Firm has successfully argued that an employee was compelled to attend an event, when the employer passed out yearly bonuses at the event. The Epstein Law Firm has also argued that events where employees received prizes for attendance are a work activity.
The Epstein Law Firm has won cases where the employees attended events that were sponsored and partially paid for by the company. In one case, the employee was told that there would be “free food and drinks,” and that “it would be nice if the employee could attend” so that the “company could have a nice showing at the party.” At the party, the employee fell and injured her back and the resulting injury was proven to be a work-related injury.
If alcohol is a contributing factor in the accident, the resulting injury is many times still considered to be a work-related injury. This is especially true when the employee’s job is to attend the event. The fact that alcohol is a partial or sole cause of the accident, although a defense, should not be the deciding factor, as long as the factors above are present and the employer is aware that alcohol is being served.
Moreover, an employer may even be liable if the accident occurs after the event, such as while walking in a parking lot. Also, if an accident occurs on the way to the event or while returning home, an automobile or transportation accident may likely be deemed a work-related accident. Of course, many factors may affect such a determination, but, in many cases, injuries occurring while traveling to and from a company event are considered a work-related injury.
The most important takeaway is that any injury at a company party or event is likely a work-related injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. This is true, even if alcohol is involved and if it seems like the activity has little or nothing to do with work.
If you were injured at a company party, contact Jack Epstein at the Epstein Law Firm in Chicago, Illinois to discuss the facts of your case. Contact Jack Epstein online or by phone at 773-522-7000.