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Sunday, November 8, 2020

When is an off-regular-hours activity not in the course of the employment?

The NJ Supreme Court is deliberating on the issue of whether an an employee should receive workers’ compensation if an injured occurred at an off-regular-hours event. The issue presented to the Court was whether an employee is entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act, specifically N.J.S.A. 34:15-7, for injuries that occurred while she was volunteering at her employer’s “Family Fun Day” event?

The employer, a non-profit organization servicing disabled clients, sponsored an event for the clients and their friend. The employees were given option to go and assist if they so desired.

An employee of the non-profit organization, whose duties were of a cook, attended the even to assist in food preparation and handling. While performing those task the employed slipped and fell and suffered injuries.

The trial court below dismissed the claim as non-compensation and deemed the injured worker a volunteer whose was injured not in the course of her employment. The Appellate Court, in an unreported decision, affirmed the dismissal. 

The defense alleged that the employee held the status at the event of a “volunteer” and the accident did not arise out of or occur in the course of the employment. 

“In general, a volunteer is not an employee under the Workers' Compensation Act. A volunteer is one who has not entered into a contract for hire and is one who does not receive payment for services.”  Gelman, Jon L, Workers’ Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 3.7 (Thomson-Reuters 2020). . “In evaluating compensability for recreational activities, the court has reviewed factors such as whether the activity occurred on the premises of the employer, whether the activity was required, and whether the activity provided substantial benefit to the employer.” Id, at §10.13.

At oral argument before the NJ Supreme Court, the focus shifted from the defense presented and delved into the concept of the compensability for injuries suffered while an employee was performing uncompensated overtime. The Court, in its questioning, explored the theory that the injured employee could possibly be entitled to overtime pay for working for the benefit of the employer on the weekend, and in excess of the normal work hours.

A-48-19 Kim Goulding v. NJ Friendship House, Inc. (083726)

Video of the oral argument is available on-line. (10/13/2020)

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters