This case involves an interpretation of Minn. Stat. §176.021 which contains an exclusion from workers’ compensation coverage for employee’s who participate in a “voluntary recreational program”.
In this case, the employee attended an annual employee recognition event, which was deemed to be voluntary by the employer. However, if the employee elected not to attend this event, he/she would not receive any pay and he would have to use vacation time.
The employee was injured at the event while participating in laser tag event.
The court found that the employee had sustained a compensable work injury. The court held that the employee sponsored event was not voluntary as the employee’s options were limited to:
1. Attending the program and getting paid; or
2. Not attending the program and forfeiting pay or benefits.
A recreational program sponsored by the employer is not “voluntary” when the employee risks forfeiting pay or benefits if he/she elects not to attend the program.
The court further held that even though the employee “voluntarily” participated in the laser tag, the injury was still compensable. The court distinguished a term “program” which is a collection of activities versus an individual activity within the program.