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Injuries of volunteering employee are compensable


The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the injuries sustained by a worker who was volunteering at the time are compensable.

In Goulding v. NJ Friendship House Inc., the court on Monday reversed an appellate court decision, ruling that an employee’s role volunteering for a company event was “a benefit to the employer” and that her injuries are covered by workers compensation.

Kim Goulding worked as a cook on an hourly basis for Hackensack, New Jersey-based North Jersey Friendship House Inc., a nonprofit that provides vocational training and services to individuals with developmental issues.

On Sept. 23, 2017, the nonprofit hosted a “Family Fun Day” event for clients and families, and asked employees if they would volunteer.  Ms. Goulding offered to cook, and while she was preparing to grill, she stepped into a small pothole on the grounds and fell, injuring her right foot and ankle.

She applied for workers compensation, which was denied by a workers comp judge. An appellate court affirmed the ruling, holding that the event did not produce a benefit to the employer beyond boosting employee health and morale.

The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed, finding that an event “designed with the purpose of benefitting the employer’s clients, members, or customers … “cannot be deemed a social or recreational activity” for employee volunteers.

The court held that the employer presented “little evidence to suggest Family Fun Day improved employee health and morale, especially considering that there is nothing in the record suggesting employees and their families were invited to attend as guests.”

Noting that Ms. Goulding would not have attended the event or have been injured had it not been for her employer’s request for volunteers, the court held that her injuries were compensable.






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