Acts Benefiting Employee
When an employee undertakes an activity that is outside his regular or established duties, the question arises whether an injury resulting from such activity was incurred during the course of his employment. Though compensation is not altogether likely when the act benefits the employee, there are instances where it is possible for an employee to recover workers’ compensation benefits. With respect to self-improvement activities, courts have allowed compensation where the employee was injured while attempting to register for a vocational class. The decision hinged on the fact that the vocational education was called for in the contract for hire. Additionally, an employee required by his union to take educational courses, which were paid for by the employer, was allowed compensation.
Other personal activities that an employee may participate in are training seminars, continuing education classes, conferences, and the like. If an employee is injured in connection with his attendance at one of these, compensation will generally only be allowed if his participation was a requirement of his job or, at the very least, contemplated by his position with the employer.
Compensation is generally unlikely when the self-improvement activity is completely personal, with no consequent benefits accruing to the employer. It is just as doubtful that compensation will be awarded when the activity is forbidden by the employer. Consider the machinist who works on a personal project after his workday has ended despite the employer’s policy prohibiting the use of tools and equipment for anything other than work-related projects. Further, an employee’s participation in a union activity is normally considered “personal” and, thereby, not within the course of his employment.