This case involves a denial of a work injury because it occurred during a voluntary employer-
sponsored recreational activity pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 9. That provision
provides that injuries occurring at certain voluntary recreational activities that are sponsored
by an employer, including wellness programs, athletic events, parties, picnics, etc., are not
compensable. However, the exclusion does not apply where the injured employee is required to
participate in this recreational activity or program by the employer.
In this case, the employee was involved in a charity week activity where he played flag football
to benefit the United Way. He paid an entry fee of $20.00 to participate, but the entire entry
fee went to the United Way. He was paid his regular wage by the employer during his time
participating in football game. He did not have to take any paid time off or vacation time to
participate. During the flag football game, the employee injured his Achilles heel tendon,
needed surgery, and missed two weeks of work.
The workers’ compensation judge denied the employee’s claims for workers’ compensation
benefits arising out of the charitable fundraising flag football game, pursuant to Minn. Stat. §
176.021, subd. 9. The WCCA upheld the finding of the compensation judge indicating that
176.021, subd. 9, makes clear that it has to be a voluntary activity and the facts of the case
supported the employer’s contention that this was strictly a voluntary recreational activity. In
essence, the court upheld that under Hengemuhle, and did not find in the employee’s contention
that he was not told about alternatives for participation as persuasive. The court also noted that
even if there is a benefit to the employer for having a charity week, the statute was added in
order to specifically exclude certain recreational activities that are sponsored by an employer
from being potential compensable injuries and, therefore, denied any analysis under previous
case law in which those types of activities were previously compensable.
Lesson from this Case
When evaluating whether or not an injury is compensable, it will be important to know whether
or not this is an injury that occurred as a result of a recreational type event that was sponsored
by the employer and to find out whether or not it was a voluntary event, what type of an event it
was, and whether or not employees were given the opportunity to not participate and go on with
their regular workday, take unpaid time off, or take paid time off instead of participation.