When workers suffer injuries while attending company-sponsored events in Illinois, employers may be liable for damages under certain circumstances. Under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, an employer’s liability for injuries sustained is determined by whether the sponsored event or activity is considered voluntary or mandatory. Although Illinois courts have frequently ruled against worker compensation for injuries sustained during voluntary employer-sponsored events, some victims have been awarded damages because the definition of “voluntary” is not as cut and dry as it might seem.
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Factors that Determine Whether an Injury is Compensable
Although many company-sponsored events and activities may appear to be voluntary initially, and therefore not compensable closer look might reveal otherwise.
- Professional Repercussions: Some types of employer-sponsored activities are associated with business purposes. Team building exercises and informal discussions are examples. Although employers may not actually require that their workers attend these events, they might put pressure on their employees to participate. If a worker could be subjected to professional repercussions for not attending a company-sponsored event or participating in an activity, he or she may be entitled to financial compensation when injuries are sustained.
- During Regular Work Hours: In some cases, employees are paid regular wages while attending employer events during their normal workday. If an employee has to choose between receiving full pay by attending an event or forfeiting pay or taking a vacation or personal day, a voluntary event can be considered mandatory for workers’ compensation purposes.
- Assigned Job Duties: Sometimes employers pay their own workers to set-up activities, manage a team, or make purchases or other preparations for an event on behalf of the company. Even when an employee voluntarily chooses to take on the assignment of such responsibilities, they can be deemed part of his or her job duties. Any injuries sustained in a situation like this will likely be compensable.
When victims suffer serious injuries while participating in employer-sponsored events, they may require extensive medical treatment, need time away from work, experience loss of use, and suffer other damages that could significantly impact their financial future. Under Illinois law, if company events are not deemed to be voluntary, however, or if it is determined that any duties performed are assigned as part of a job, an employer may be held liable for medical expenses, lost wages, and other applicable expenses caused by the injuries sustained.