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Could “Happy Hours” Make Employers Legally “Unhappy”?

January 28, 2020

Whether networking, company morale or simply staff getting together to relax after a tough work week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is taking a look at what an employer’s responsibility, and perhaps liability, stems from the “happy hour.” In Peters  v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board the claimant was injured in a car accident after attending a work sponsored happy hour. Thereafter, the claimant sought benefits through workers’ compensation insurance for lost wages and medical bills, asserting he was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

The lower courts essentially held that the claimant was not required to attend and voluntarily chose to participate, therefore taking him outside of his scope of employment. However, by the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the matter, the issue of coverage for these types of events comes into direct question. Factual issues such as where events are held, who pays for the event, and who attends could become central in a determination of when the workday ends and private life begins.  Moreover, should the Supreme Court overturn the lower courts, employers (and their insurance carriers) will need to take into account events like happy hours when determining coverage limits, costs and premiums.

At a minimum, the Supreme Court’s decision once rendered is something every business will need to address.

If you think it is time for your company to review its policies on these types of events, then please call or email Nate Murawsky and the members of our Business Advisory Group at 215-661-0400.