Both in Missouri and in Illinois, accidents caused by horseplay in the workplace are usually not compensable. Horseplay or “goofing off” is generally not acceptable behavior in the workplace as it may result in injuries to the employees. It commonly has nothing to do with furthering the interests of the employer. Generally, an employee actively involved in the horseplay incident is not successful in proving a compensable work related accident. On the other hand, an employee who does not participate in the horseplay but is injured because of the horseplay will be entitled to benefits. Additionally, if it is determined that the employer knew of the horseplay and tolerated it, benefits may be awarded even to the participant.
In the recent case decided in Missouri, Grayson v Thorne and Son Asphalt Paving Company, the claimant alleged that he sustained an injury to his shoulder which arose out of his employment when he was involved with an altercation with a co-worker and fell to the ground. It was shown at trial that the 57-year-old worker began work in a morning in 2015 when a co-worker grabbed him and they wrestled. Witnesses stated that there were no bad feelings between the two employees and that they continued to work after the incident although the claimant testified that he was not a voluntary participant to the assault. In addition, another employee reported that people were often joking around but wrestling was not typical conduct.
After hearing the evidence at trial, the ALJ found that at the time of the claimant’s alleged injury on September 25, 2015, the employee was engaged in voluntary horseplay that was neither commonplace in the workplace nor condoned by employer. The ALJ concluded that the employee did not sustain an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment Based on this finding, the claimant was denied benefits. The Commission affirmed the denial of benefits finding that the risk source of the employee’s injury in this case was employee’s own voluntary consent to horseplay that was neither commonplace at work nor condoned by employer. Because the risk source of employee’s injury was personal and did not arise out of the work or the workplace, his injury was not compensable.
This is a favorable decision for the employer. In order to increase the likelihood that injuries from horseplay are found not compensable, it is important for the employer to insure horseplay is not tolerated in the work place.
Please feel free contact us with any Missouri workers’ compensation questions. Thanks to attorney Jill Baker for the summary of this case. Jill works out of the Chicago and St. Louis offices of Inman and Fitzgibbons and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.