Can I File a Workers Compensation Claim If I Am Injured at A Company Picnics or Company Party?

The answer to this question is that it depends, but more often than not the answer is yes.

The Maryland courts rely on 5 key factors. Sica v. Retail Credit Co. 245 Md. 606, 227 A.2d 33 (1967), The five factors are: (1) The customary nature of the activity, (2) The employer’s encouragement or subsidization of the activity, (3) The extent to which the employer managed or directed the recreational enterprise, (4) The presence of substantial pressure or actual compulsion upon the employee to attend and participate, (5) The fact that the employer expects or receives a benefit from the employee’s participation in the activity., whether by way of improved employer-employee relationships . …through greater efficiency in the performance of the employee’s duties.”

In Sica, an employee was seriously injured when he dove into shallow water at his employer’s annual picnic. The picnic, as well as the employees’ Christmas party, were described in Sica’s pre-employment interview as fringe benefits of his employment. The picnic was organized by a committee of employees with the authorization of the employer’s managers.  The cost of the picnic was paid for by the employer, and employees were urged by the employer to attend, although attendance was not compulsory. The Court held that the third factor in the Larson Rule had been proven, because the “employer derived substantial direct benefit from the [picnic] activity beyond the intangible value of improvement in employee health and morale common to all kinds of recreation and social life,” thus the employee won.

In Coats & Clark’s Sales Corp. v. Stewart, 39 Md. App. 10, 383 A.2d 67 (1978), the Court of Special Appeals considered whether an employee’s (Stewart’s) injuries, sustained on a trip to the grocery store to purchase food for a baby sitter “arose out of and in the course of his employment.” Id. at 14. The babysitter was needed so that Stewart and his wife could attend a dinner party to honor two employees with whom Stewart worked. Stewart was to present a gift to one of the honored employees at the dinner party. Id. The party, scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., was to be held at a co-employee’s home, and was paid for by the employer. Id. At 5:00 p.m., while driving an automobile provided by his employer, Stewart was fatally injured in an accident. The Court of Special Appeals held: “In our view, the task of obtaining food for a baby sitter is a reasonable and necessary incident to obtaining a baby sitter’s services.

Because that task would not have been undertaken except for the obligation of employment.” Id. The court explained that the task of transporting the babysitter, is an integral component of an employee’s attendance at a work-related social event. They held that an employee’s self-contained trip to obtain food for a baby sitter needed to enable him to attend a work-related social event is a special errand or mission. Therefore, an employee’s injury sustained during such a trip is one sustained in the course of his employment and is compensable.

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