Pearson Koutcher Discusses Workers’ Compensation and the Solar Eclipse
The Great American Eclipse and Workers’ Compensation
On August 21st, the United States experienced a rare solar eclipse for the first time in nearly 100 years. From Depoe Bay, Oregon carving a path down to Charleston, South Carolina, residents experienced a total solar eclipse – the moon completely obscured view of the sun’s disk for a few minutes. This is known as the path of totality. Other areas outside of the path of totality experienced a partial eclipse. Regardless of the eclipse being total or partial, people were looking towards the sky to catch a glimpse of such a rare phenomenon.
In light of the rare opportunity, many employers around the country threw “Eclipse Viewing” parties with their employees. Though theses events were fun as they were expected to be, there was a risk of acquiring an eye injury from the bright rays of the sun. But would an employee injured during a staff event be eligible for worker’s compensation?
The answer is dependant on whether the event is considered to be “in the course and scope of employment.” Determining whether an employee is acting within the course and scope of employment is a question of law. Each case is fact specific. Some important considerations are:
1. Whether attendance of an event is made mandatory or encouraged by an employer.
2. Whether the purpose of the event is to further an interest of the employer such as morale and good relations, etc.
3. Whether the event’s goal is to maintain or improve the skills of employees.
Both employees and employers could have prevented an eye injury during the eclipse by taking proper safety measures, such as only viewing the eclipse while wearing certified eclipse viewing glasses. Should someone obtain an injury in any form when attending an employer event, they should get medical treatment immediately and inform their employer of the incident.
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