An office sports team is a great way to build a healthier workforce, promote camaraderie -- and potentially get you, the small business owner, sued.
As an employer, you should be concerned about incurring liability if anyone gets hurt while playing sports -- be it during a casual lunchtime game of soccer or on an official office-sponsored softball team.
Here are three ways an office sports team can get you sued:
- Injuries and fights. As an employer, you can be liable for your employees' conduct. If your office game spirals out of control, you could find yourself at the center of a harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination lawsuit, in addition to potential personal injury lawsuits related to physical altercations. Emphasize to employees that the sports game is in no way job-related.
- Premises liability. Employers must provide their employees with a safe workplace. This includes having well-maintained equipment and a safe working environment. If your employee gets injured from that janky foosball table, then you could be on the hook for dangerous workplace conditions. For starters, establish "no beer and no sliding" ground rules and encourage all participants to warm up before playing.
- Workers' compensation. If participation in the sports event is mandatory, the activity may become work-related and, in turn, make an employer liable under workers' compensation rules for any injuries that result from the game. The best way to avoid liability in this context is to explicitly state the event that participation is completely voluntary.
Play It Safe
If you think your company's fear of liability would do more harm than good, then keep the sports team and make sure to have a strong set of guidelines in place -- with some liability insurance to boot.
Many businesses are avoiding large-scale lawsuits by counting office sports-related injuries as work-related and covering the medical bills, reports the Los Angeles Times. It's a smart and financially savvy way to prevent a pricier lawsuit from cropping up.
For more information on potential legal issues and solutions, you may want to speak to an experienced employment law attorney in your area.
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