In this case, the Workers' Compensation Board found that an injury that occurred on a day off when delivering a "Secret Santa" gift to a coworker should be accepted as an on-the-job injury claim
In looking at this case, the Board emphasized the fact that the injured worker was present at the office not only to deliver a gift, but also to check on a work assignment. The employer did not require participation in any gift exchange, but did not object to the exchange either. The worker fell while delivering to gift.
Before finding for the injured worker, the Board did not consider an "affirmative defense" that the injured worker was involved in a recreational or social activity primarily for her personal pleasure. This is a defense available under the Workers' Compensation statute that allows an employer to deny a claim if the employer can prove that the injured worker was engaged in some recreational or social activity for her own pleasure at the time of the injury. In this case, the Board found that the employer did not raise this issue early enough in the case for her to be considered as a valid defense.
Moving on, the Board then addressed whether or not the injury occurred in the course of and arose out of the worker's work activity. In resolving this issue, the Board explained that an injury occurs in the course and scope of employment depending upon the time, place and circumstances of the injury. The Board then explained that for an injury to "arise out of employment" means there must be some connection between the risk of the injury and the nature of the work. In other words, the injury must be connected to some aspect of the job or job duty.
When applying these standards, the Board found that this worker was allowed to be at the office during her days off without any approval, and that coming in to work on a day off was customary. The Board also considered the fact that the injury happened at the employer's premises, which would be expected.
Finally, the Board found that even though the worker was delivering a gift when the injury occurred, the employer permitted this activity, and it was not a departure from the work activity.
Whether an injury occurs in the course and scope of employment, and arises out of that employment is a complex issue, because the facts underlying an injury vary greatly from case to case. These cases require a lot of investigation and research, and if you are facing a denial like this, call us at 503-325-8600. We have successfully prosecuted cases like this in the past with great success.