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Employee Engaging in Horseplay Might Still Recover Benefits

An interesting Ohio Court of Appeals decision from earlier this year addressed the issue of horseplay at work and whether the resulting injuries are compensable by workers’ compensation. While horseplay generally may constitute a bar on receiving workers’ compensation, the Court of Appeals in Kelley v. Ryan and Coca-Cola Enterprises, found that the employee was still entitled to benefits.

The general rule concerning workers’ compensation and horseplay in Ohio is that injuries sustained are not compensable because they fall outside the scope of employment. When determining if an injury will be covered by workers’ compensation, a claim will be examined to see if it arose out of a work-related activity and whether the benefits-claiming employee instigated the horseplay. In a situation in which the injuries were work-related and the employee did not somehow instigated the horseplay or fighting, the resulting injuries may very well be compensable.

In the Kelley case, the Court of Appeals further clarified a situation in which horseplay may result in injuries that are still compensable under workers’ compensation. This particular case involved a Coca-Cola employee that was participating in a mandatory corporate kick-off event to celebrate the release of Coca-Cola Zero. As part of the celebration, employees were encouraged to canoe down a river together.

When the canoe trip was over, the employee attempted to walk up an embankment to get on a bus. Two managers tried to pull the employee back down the embankment in order to get him wet. After the managers were unsuccessful in getting the employee wet, one of them lifted the employee and slammed him to the ground. The horseplay between the manager and the employee resulted in the employee suffering a neck injury.

In upholding the employees claim for workers’ compensation, the Court of Appeals noted that an employee could receive workers compensation — even if he or she instigated the horseplay — if the employer was aware of, and acquiesced in, the horseplay.

Related Resource:

Employee may seek comp benefits for neck injury during company outing (Risk and Insurance)

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