A lot of workplaces thrive on a little bit of friendly horseplay between workers – and there’s nothing wrong with finding ways to make a job more enjoyable. Horseplay can even build camaraderie among a team or crew.
But, what if things go a little too far and someone ends up hurt? Unlike in many other states, a worker in Arizona who is injured on the job in an incident where horseplay is involved can often still obtain benefits.
Taking a look at the big picture
Essentially, it all depends on exactly how the situation leading up to the injury unfolded. Case law in this state says that the horseplay exception to benefits only applies when there was a “substantial deviation” from the injured worker’s duties – to the point where they had effectively abandoned their job for a few minutes.
To evaluate the validity of a claim involving horseplay, the following factors have to be considered:
- The seriousness of the worker’s deviation (how far it went) from their normal job duties
- How completely they had abandoned their work (whether the horseplay was commingled with the job duties or not)
- How accepted their horseplay was by their employer, in general
- The extent to which the very nature of the job could be expected to include some horseplay
In other words, there’s a big difference between an injury that occurs because someone asks a co-worker to toss them a tool they need and they literally toss it and an injury that occurs because a couple of co-workers totally abandoned their jobs for a few minutes to throw things at each other in a playful game of “catch.”
It’s important to avoid assuming that you can’t file a claim because you were not 100% engaged in work when an injury happened. Face it: Neither employers nor their insurers want to pay a lot of workers’ compensation claims – so they look for excuses that they can use to deny them. If you believe that your workers’ comp claim was unfairly denied due to “horseplay” or some other reason, seeking legal guidance can help you review your options for an appeal.