Can an employee injured at a company event in Des Moines still file for workers’ comp?

An employee injured at a company event in Des Moines may or may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, depending upon the nature of the event. This is a highly complex area of the law and the courts often have difficulty making rulings about employer responsibility at events.

If you were injured at a company social, conference, off-site meeting, or other event while not officially on the clock, seek advice from a workers’ compensation attorney.

Determining Eligibility for Workers’ Comp if an Employee is Injured at a Company Event

Generally speaking, if you are injured while performing a job-related duty during the course of your employment, you are covered by workers’ compensation. The area becomes a little grey when you are injured at a company event and not necessarily while at your place of employment and not during working hours.

The Iowa Division of Workers' Compensation or the courts will have to determine the employer’s liability for the injury based on whether or not the event can be considered truly work-related.

Below are a couple of guiding factors the courts often use when making their determinations.

  • Were you expressly or implicitly required to attend the event?  
  • Did your employer receive benefit by your attendance?
  • Was your company assigned to the event?
  • Did it occur on company property?

Litmus Test of Employer Liability for Employee Injured at a Company Event

Iowa courts use a general litmus test for determining employer liability at company events, referred to as the “business-related benefit test.”  Essentially, if the company benefits from the event, it might be responsible for employee injuries at the event.

However, if the only benefit the company receives is a boost in morale, the injured worker may not be eligible for workers’ compensation. It’s difficult to ascertain company liability in some instances; each case is different and needs to be carefully analyzed by a legal professional.

For example, if you were injured while you were voluntarily at a company picnic, you weren’t paid, you didn’t have to be there, and your employer did not benefit from your attendance, you will likely not qualify for workers’ comp. Conversely, if you were at a mandatory off-site conference or if you were manning a concession table for your company at a community event, you will likely qualify.

Example of Employee Injured at Company Event & Who Sought Workers’ Comp

In the case of Gazette Communications v. Powell, a man injured himself while at a bowling event that an employee committee had sponsored. The workers’ comp commissioner decided that because the company benefited from the employee’s participation, workers’ compensation applied.

However, the district court and the Court of Appeals later overturned that answer. They found that “morale and efficiency benefits are not alone enough to bring recreation within the course of employment.” So, because the sole benefit the employer received was an increase in employee morale, the event was not within the scope of employment.

Our Workers’ Comp Attorneys Can Determine Your Eligibility

If you were an employee injured at a company event in Des Moines and believe you’re eligible for workers’ compensation, we encourage you to give us a call to talk about your options. You might be eligible for benefits or additional types of compensation such as a third-party claim if another party (like a property owner or manager) was negligent and you suffered an injury because of that negligence.

Contact us today at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines for a free consultation: (641) 792-3595.

Corey Walker
With 19 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.