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This recent New York appeals court ruling is interesting for what it says about an employer’s responsibility and an employee’s ability to tap work comp benefits.
The court found an employer must provide benefits for an employee injured at a fitness center because the employer encouraged the claimant to maintain a gym membership.
The ruling in Frank P. Torre v. Logic Technology upholds a 2008 Workers’ Compensation Board finding that the claimant’s spinal cord injury arose out of the course of his employment.
The claimant’s job required developing client contacts and the employer’s president encouraged the fitness center participation to further that goal.
The gym where the accident occurred is owned by General Electric Co., which is a client of the claimant’s employer. The employer performs contract work for GE.
New York claimants can’t recover benefits for off-duty athletic activity, unless the employer requires it, sponsors it, or compensates for the participation, court records show. In this case the employer neither compensated the employee nor required participation.
Therefore, the claimant had to show the employer sponsored the gym activity, “which required an affirmative act or overt encouragement by the employer to participate,” the court record states.
Employers obviously need to be careful about encouraging employees to participate in extracurricular activities.