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Off Duty Injuries

Today’s topic is of off duty injuries (which may be compensable). Generally, liability for compensation, without regard to negligence, exists against an employer, for injuries arising out of the voluntary participation of an off-duty recreational, social, or athletic activity, that are reasonably expected or that are expressly (or impliedly) required by the employment. See Labor Code § 3600 subd. (a)(9).

The court in Ezzy v. WCAB (1983) 48 CCC 611, established a two-pronged test for whether an employee’s participation in an off-duty recreational, social or athletic activity constitutes a reasonable expectancy of employment. It stated that courts must look at:

  1. Whether the employee subjectively believed that his or her participation in an activity was expected by the employer; and
  2. Whether that belief was objectively reasonable.

In Ezzy, the court held that a softball injury from an employer sponsored softball game was compensable. In a similar case, the court held an injury from an employer sponsored soccer game was compensable when a supervisor signed up the employee, paid for his membership, paid for jerseys and paid for pizza.

In another case, a police officer’s injury from off duty exercise was industrial since the purpose of the exercise was to maintain fitness to pass a mandated fitness test. Similarly, a county jail correctional sergeant’s home jumping jack injury was found industrial because the department required correctional officers to maintain themselves in good physical condition so that they can handle the strenuous physical contacts often required of a law enforcement officer.

On the other hand, the court held that a police officer was not entitled to compensation for his injury from a voluntary off duty pickup basketball game because that police officer was not subject to any physical fitness test. Here the court said the general and reasonable expectation that a police officer will maintain sufficient physical fitness to perform his or her duties was not sufficient to extend workers’ compensation coverage to voluntarily activities.

In another case, a deputy sheriff was denied compensation when he was injured from lifting weights off work because there was no expectation the deputy would lift weights at work and there was no physical fitness test mandate. In another case, a CHP officer was denied compensation when he trained up to 60-hours per week for ultramarathons and injured his foot. Here, the court said the degree of recreational activity was far out from the realm of required work activity.

Although off duty injuries may create liability for compensation, generally, the employee must subjectively believe his or her participation in an activity was expected by the employer and that belief must be objectively reasonable. For questions or concerns about any legal matter, call us at (877) 212-6907 and see how our skilled attorneys can assist you or your organization. Have a nice day.

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