Employees injured during horseplay at work may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits

Florida employers ordinarily don’t have to pay workers’ compensation benefits for employees who are hurt while engaging in horseplay. But that provision doesn’t provide much protection when workers’ comp judges split hairs over what’s technically off-duty horseplay and what’s just a momentary deviation from job duties.

Your best protection? Run a tight ship. Train supervisors to stop any activity that smacks of potential danger. Clowning around can be an expensive diversion.

Recent case: Mary Joe DeBusk, an Allied Convention Center employee, was hurt when she fell off a dolly that a co-worker on a bicycle was pulling around. She was perched on a toolbox on the dolly.

Workers testified that they often rode around the convention center on bicycles and electric scooters, which their employer didn’t supply but allowed them to use.

At the time of the accident, DeBusk was on the clock. She sued for benefits, and the workers’ comp judge awarded her payment, even though her co-workers may have been negligent.

The judge said the employees weren’t engaged in the kind of horseplay that bars compensation, but were merely deviating momentarily from their work. (DeBusk v. Allied Convention Center, 13 FLWCLB 206, 2006)