Every worker has fooled around or participated in practical jokes in the workplace. It’s a way to lower the stress of the workday and build camaraderie with co-workers. However, if you suffer an injury while engaging in horseplay, you run the risk of being ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits while you heal.
The requirements for workers’ compensation
Minnesota’s workers’ compensation statute only requires employers to provide workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that their employees sustain in the course of their employment. In other words, in order to qualify, an employee has to have sustained their injury while doing what they were hired to do, or while doing what their employer expected them to do while at work.
Under this definition, horseplay, fooling around or recreational play typically doesn’t fit into the category of work duties. If you take a break from your duties to do something dangerous or reckless, you run the risk of not being able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt.
However, it’s not completely black and white. There are times when an injury sustained during horseplay could still qualify for coverage.
Horseplay and fooling around
Some people think that an injury sustained during horseplay will never qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. In reality, it depends upon the circumstances surrounding the injury.
For example, in 1999 a man suffered a broken heel while attempting a physical feat that his supervisor and other employees dared him to attempt while on the job. The court ultimately held that his injuries deserved compensation under Minnesota’s workers’ compensation law, because his supervisor knew about the activity, did not prohibit it, and actively participated in it.
However, if your supervisor specifically prohibits an activity, or it goes against your company’s posted rules, and you do it anyway, it’s more likely that your employer will be able to deny you benefits.
While horseplay and jokes are fun, they can be dangerous. Even so, they may not necessarily disqualify you for workers’ compensation benefits in certain circumstances.