SOCIAL ACTIVITIES EXCEPTION

A New Jersey Appellate Division panel of Judges reversed a lower court’s ruling on June 24, 2009 involving Worker’s Compensation benefits that stemmed from a late night brawl outside a bar in Atlantic City. In this case, an employee was attending a required banquet, sponsored by her employer, in Atlantic City. Following the banquet a group of employees went to the Toga Bar. At the bar, the employee introduced her boss to a potential customer. During the trial, the employee testified that she wanted to leave the bar to go to bed, but that her immediate supervisor advised her that she must stay. A little while later the employee and her boss stepped out of the bar but continued to discuss company business. At this point, outside the bar, the employee’s boss became involved in an altercation with a third person. During the course of this fight the employee was struck and sustained an injury. She applied for worker’s compensation benefits claiming she was injured on the job.

The initial workers compensation court denied her claim. The court reasoned that she was not entitled to benefits because her activities were “merely social.” The court further reasoned that the activities that took place both inside and outside of the Toga Bar were not within the scope of her employment. The Appellate Division, however, reversed the lower court’s decision and awarded workers compensation benefits to the injured employee. The Appellate Division reasoned that while her injuries were the result of a social activity, this social activity was required by her boss and was within the scope of her employment. The Court seemed persuaded by the employee’s testimony that she wanted to leave the bar because it was late and that her supervisor told her “if I have to be here so do you.” Also, there were prospective customers at the bar and when the injury took place, the employee and her boss were discussing company matters.

The facts in this case are different from the typical fact pattern in which a group of employees decide to meet for drinks after work and an injury occurs. The fact that this social activity was required, that business was conducted at the bar, and that when the employee asked her boss if she could leave he told her she had to stay, is what ultimately swayed the Appellate Division panel. If you have been injured during the course of your employment, you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact an attorney at the Princeton, New Jersey law firm of Lependorf & Silverstein to discuss your legal rights. A Princeton, New Jersey workers compensation attorney at the law firm of Lependorf & Silverstein can advise you of your rights. Contact us today.