“Tossing the tree” at the Christmas party, an accident at work?

It is sometimes difficult to determine whether an employee’s participation in an employer-sponsored activity, such as a Christmas party, is part of his or her job. If the answer is yes, an accident occurring during this activity will give rise to compensation under the Occupational Accidents and Diseases Act (LATMP).

In a recent decision of the Administrative Labor Tribunal, a question arose when a municipality organized a Christmas event for citizens. Such events require the participation of public works employees, and in this context, a municipal employee also participates in the event.

Then his job is to build the site and participate in various tasks during the event, and then take it down when it closes.

At the end of the mentioned event, volunteers and employees got together and engaged in various activities, one of which was “tree throwing”. It was while participating in this “tree throwing” that the worker injured his knee.

Is it a work accident?

To answer this question, the court must determine whether there is a connection between the activity performed at the time of the accident and the case itself. If it is an activity within the professional sphere, the complaint is accepted, otherwise, if it is an activity in the personal sphere, the complaint is rejected.

It should be noted that the court takes into account the following when assessing the work-relatedness of a certain activity:

  • location of the event;
  • the time of the event;
  • reward for the activity performed during the event;
  • the presence or degree of authority or subordination of the employer when the incident does not occur in the workplace or during working hours;
  • the purpose of the activity carried out at the time of the incident, whether incidental, accidental or due to the employee’s working conditions;
  • the relative usefulness of the employee’s activity in relation to the performance of the work.

It should be noted that none of these elements alone is decisive and it is more necessary to examine all the facts.

In our country, the court considered that this cannot be an industrial accident. Indeed, the “tree throwing” activity took place after the activity open to the public had been closed and the site in question had been demolished.

Right to refuse

The employee could refuse to participate in “tree throwing” because the employer had no obligation in this regard.

Meeting with citizens after an activity for the court is not part of the employee’s job duties. This is not an activity organized by the employer for the benefit of the citizens.

Finally, the court considers that when an employee decides to participate in a volunteer rally and carries out “tree throwing”, it is in his personal sphere and his claim will be dismissed.

But it can be different depending on the circumstances.

For example, if an employee is injured during an activity controlled by the employer, when wages are paid and the purpose of which is to strengthen team spirit, the claim is generally accepted by the court. .

As for the traditional workers’ Christmas party, we can say the following:

  • If this Christmas party is held outside working hours and without pay, it would be hard to think of an injury on this occasion as a work-related accident.
  • On the other hand, if the Christmas party is held at the office during regular business hours, then the injury will generally be considered a work accident.

Morency Law Firm Me Bernard Cliche, Emeritus Lawyer

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