Oregon Court Says Walking to Post Office Isn’t “Recreational” Just Because Employee Enjoyed the Activity

That an office worker enjoyed walking did not transform her trip to the post office during the workday into recreational activity, held an Oregon appellate court recently in Sedgwick Claims Mgmt. Servs. v. Norwood, 2015 Ore. App. LEXIS 1625 (Dec. 30, 2015). The worker’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits could not, therefore, be barred by Or. Rev. Stat. § 656.005(7)(b)(B), which excludes any injury “incurred while engaging in or performing, or as the result of engaging in or performing, any recreational or social activities primarily for the worker’s personal pleasure” [emphasis added].

Background

The worker was employed as an office assistant during tax season. Wagner, one of the co-owners of the tax business, decided to visit the bank. As Wagner passed the worker’s desk, the worker asked Wagner to take an envelope that needed to be mailed to the post office. The worker changed her mind, however, and indicated she would walk the envelope to the post office herself. She did so, paying for the postage with a company check. After the worker left the post office, she was seriously injured when she was struck by a car. The employer denied the worker’s claim on the basis that she was engaged in recreational activity at the time she was injured. The ALJ and the Board determined that Or. Rev. Stat. § 656.005(7)(b)(B) did not apply and the employer appealed.

Did Activity Advance Employer’s Work-Related Interests?

The employer contended that because Wagner would have performed the work task if the worker had not performed it, the worker’s actions in walking to the post office did not advance the employer’s work-related interests and that the worker’s personal enjoyment in performing the task necessarily outweighed the benefit to the employer. The appellate court said the Board was appropriate in rejecting the employer’s reasoning. That the worker derived recreational enjoyment from performing a work task and volunteered to perform it did not mean that the task lost its significance as a work-related task.

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