Specialist's attempt to obtain benefits for hula hoop injury falls flat
Case name: Wright v. Shands Jacksonville/Johns Eastern Co., 19 FLWCLB 111 (Fla. JCC, Jacksonville 2012).
Ruling: A Florida judge of compensation claims held that a specialist's accidental injury while participating in recreational events at a company celebration was not compensable.
What it means: In Florida, in order for an injury during a recreational activity at work to be compensable, the worker must show that her participation was mandatory and that the activities produced a substantial direct benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale.
Summary: A financial eligibility specialist was participating in a hula hoop contest on her employer's premises when she twisted her ankle. The contest occurred during the employer's annual spirit week. The recreational activities were by invitation but were not mandatory. The events took place during lunchtime hours in a building on the employer's premises located two blocks from the specialist's normal work location. A representative for the employer testified that the purpose of the week was to promote employee morale and to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. The JCC found her injury was not compensable.
The JCC found the recreational activities were not an expressly required incident of the specialist's employment. An email did not suggest that participation was mandatory. Also, several coworkers confirmed that participation in the events was purely voluntary and there was no detrimental result to those who did not participate. The specialist had declined to participate in prior years without any punishment or sanctions.
The JCC also found there was no substantial direct benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale. The employer's representative testified there was a financial loss directly attributable to the activities of that week.
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October 18, 2012
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