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Horseplay at Work – Do Businesses Need to Be Concerned?

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Jul 16, 2007 | 0 Comments

Here's an interesting question that arose in Delaware which came to our attention through Francis Pileggi at the Delaware Corporate and Commercial Litigation Blog.  It's slightly off topic, but you don't often see facts like this, so the story is worth telling.

Injuries to employees that occur at work are usually subject to the exclusive remedy provided by each state's Worker's Compensation system.  What happens, however, when employees are engaged in "horseplay" during business hours that results in an injury?  Is the injured employee limited to his remedy in comp, or does he have the ability to recover against co-employees outside of the comp system? 

In Grabowski v. Mangler, the employer apparently tolerated an atmosphere in which employees would play pranks on each other in between assignments.  In this particular case the plaintiff was ambushed by three co-workers, thrown to the ground, and wrapped from his shoulders to his anklesin duct tape.  Normally claims against the co-employees would be barred. 

The Delaware Supreme Court said that if the conduct of the rambunctious employees was within the scope or course of their employment, then Worker's Comp would bar the plaintiff's lawsuit.  If not within the scope or course of their employment, then the claim would be allowed.  The case was sent back to the trial court to make that determination.  We will let you know if we see more on this one.  If for no other reason than that I'm interested to find out how binding a co-worker in duct tape fits in anyone's job description.   

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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