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Workers' Comp said my injury was caused by horseplay.  What's that?

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I am a butcher who works for a grocery store.  I was at work one day, when one my coworkers playfully grabbed me from behind and pretended to choke me.  I pushed him away and we engaged in an innocent wrestling match of sorts.  After this was done, we just laughed it off.  The next day I started feeling some pain in my neck and shoulders. The pain has gotten so bad that I cannot perform my job duties as a butcher.  I reported this to my employer and they told me that it is not their responsibility and to get back to work.  They also told me that if I cannot work, then I have to take a sick day.  Can my employer do this?  The injury to my shoulder happened at work.
There is no simple answer to this.  The best answer is it depends.  A worker is generally not allowed to obtain any workers’ compensation benefits if they are engaged in “horse play” on the employer’s premises.  Horse play is generally defined as rough, boisterous play or fun without any animosity (or intent to injure).  If the injury was caused by horseplay then the claim is usually barred.   However, if the employer condones this type of behavior and it is shown that they have known about it in the past, then the worker may be allowed benefits.  Examples of this are there are supervisors present who observe this behavior and do not do anything to stop it.  There may also be a case where the supervisor laughs along with it.  Or it may have happened on a regular basis previously without the employer trying to stop it.  These type of scenarios need to be analyzed very carefully.   Much will depend on the facts of each case, and an analysis based on statute and prior case law. 

If you have questions about your workers' compensation case and want to talk to an attorney in Fresno, call 559-408-7436 or fill out the form to the right.