The Rules Of Horseplay

When you think about getting hurt on the job, you probably think of things like machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and heavy objects. You probably don’t think about your crazy co-workers — they might get on your nerves, but they are mostly harmless. Right?

Wrong, say the New Jersey courts.

Article 2 of the NJ workers comp law includes a paragraph called Horseplay or skylarking on part of fellow employee. The provision establishes that injury resulting from on-the-job tomfoolery is construed to have arisen in the course of employment, even if the activity itself is not part of the job.

As is often the case, courts in New Jersey and elsewhere have refined the basic idea into the Horseplay Doctrine through various landmark decisions. One of the most important was the Colorado case Lori’s Family Dining, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, in which the court established a four-part test for determining whether horseplay-related injury is compensable. The New Jersey courts have also adopted the test, which considers whether the activities of the employees at the time of the injury were so far removed from their normal work (which the court refers to as deviation) that they should be excluded from workers comp eligibility. The four tests are:

  • The extent and seriousness of the deviation
  • The completeness of the deviation (i.e., was it commingled with normal work or completely separated?)
  • The extent to which horseplay was an accepted aspect of the workplace
  • The extent to which the type of employment is likely to include some horseplay.

For example, an injury sustained while an employee was dancing during a work break was found to be not compensable. However, a restaurant employee who slipped and fell in the kitchen while pretending to throw a kick at a co-worker was granted workers comp.

It is ironic, of course, for such serious analysis to arise from such silly activity. But it is important to know that if you are injured in any way on the job, you should consult an experienced New Jersey workers compensation attorney to assess your right to workers comp benefits.

Posted in Workers Compensation

Tagged horseplay, NJ workers compensation,

Published In: Labor & Employment Updates, Personal Injury Updates, Worker’s Compensation Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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