On February 8, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a woman that was injured while volunteering at an employer sponsored community event was not engaged in “recreational or social activities” such that she should be barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Traditionally workers compensation benefits (medical, income and permanency) are only available for someone who is injured while in the course of their employment. The Supreme Court unanimously overruled the lower Court rulings denying her benefits.
There is a two-pronged exception that permits workers’ compensation benefits when the recreational activity is (1), a regular instance of employment and (2), produces a benefit to the employer beyond employee health and morale. In addressing the first prong, the Supreme Court found that the plaintiff would not have attended the event and may not have been injured but for her employer’s request for volunteers. The court noted that the event was to assist individuals with developmental disabilities and by organizing and sponsoring the event, the employer received the added benefit of enhancing its reputation in the community thereby satisfying the second prong.
Based upon same, the Court determined that the Workers’ Compensation Act was intended to apply to an employee who volunteered their time, was encouraged to do so by their employer and where their employer received an independent benefit as a result of their involvement. For these reasons, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the Plaintiff would be entitled to WC benefits for the injuries that she sustained.
If you have any questions about a workers’ compensation or other type of injury claim, please do not hesitate to contact us.