Surprise! Off-duty horseplay can qualify as ‘work time’ — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Surprise! Off-duty horseplay can qualify as ‘work time’

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in Human Resources

Issue: Your broad liability for workers' comp injuries.

Risk: If supervisors exert control over employees outside the workplace, your organization could be liable for resulting injuries.

Action: Alert supervisors to this risk, soliciting help from the top brass, if necessary.

Remind supervisors that your organization's liability for employees' actions doesn't stop when the whistle blows. As the following case shows, supervisors who direct employees after the workday ends can still put the organization in financial jeopardy.

Recent case: Porfirio Lozano, a mason's laborer, was working on a private home that had three go-carts parked on a paved track. After the workday ended, Lozano's boss took a cart out for a ride. The boss told Lozano to take a drive, too. Lozano refused, saying he didn't have a license and didn't know how to drive.

The boss again told him to "get in," reassuring him "it was easy." Lozano took his boss's insistence as an order and began to drive. On his first lap, he crashed and broke his ankle.

Lozano filed a workers' comp claim, saying he was injured in an accident that arose from his employment. The workers' comp commission and a state court denied the claim, saying Lozano was engaged in off-the-clock "recreational activity."

But the state supreme court sided with Lozano. It said workers who engage in social or recreational activities at bosses' commands can recover workers' comp benefits for resulting injuries. (Lozano v. De Luca Construction Co., No. A-104-02, N.J. Sup.Ct., 2004)

Such liability can also stretch into com-pany recreational events, such as a softball team, if the company somehow "sponsors" the event.

Bottom line: Tell supervisors never to push employees to become involved with an off-site recreational activity. As this case proves, courts could see it as an "order" and make you liable for any resulting injury.

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