Workers Compensation Includes Compelled Recreational Activities

The spring and summer months offer employees opportunities to play softball with co-workers or attend company picnics. If an employee gets hurt while playing ball or trips and falls at the company outing, are they covered under the New Jersey Compensation law? Before the New Jersey Supreme Court decision of Lozano v. Frank DeLuca Contruction decided on March 10, 2004, the employee would have a number of large hurdles to jump; the hurdles have now gotten smaller.

Mr. Lozano, the injured worker in the Lozano decision was severely injured while driving a customer’s go cart at the customer’s home which was also the work site. Mr. Lozano at his hearing testified that his boss told him to get in the cart and drive it even though Mr. Lozano did not know how to drive. The Workers Compensation Judge and the Appellate Division held that Mr. Lozano was engaged in a “recreational activity” at the time of the accident and was outside the scope of employment. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case to the Workers Compensation Judge to decide whether or not Mr. Lozano’s employer compelled Mr. Lozano to drive the go-cart.

If the Workers Compensation Judge finds that there was an objective reasonable basis in fact for believing that the employer had compelled the activity, the injuries will be found compensable and Mr. Lozano will be entitled to temporary disability benefits, medical treatment and permanent disability benefits. Activities that are normally considered recreational or social when compelled by an employer are now considered work related activities as a matter of law.