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Hizey v. MCI

April 25, 2008

EDITH L. HIZEY, APPELLEE,
v.
MCI RESPONDENT/APPELLANT, AND ZURICH U.S. INSURANCE COMPANY, INSURANCE CARRIER/APPELLANT.



Appeal from Workers Compensation Board.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Appeals from decisions by the Workers Compensation Board are governed by the Kansas Act for Judicial Review and Civil Enforcement of Agency Actions (KJRA), K.S.A. 77-601 et seq., and appellate review of such decisions is limited to questions of law, including whether the Board's findings of fact are supported by substantial competent evidence.

2. An issue involving whether an accidental injury arises out of and in the course of employment is a question of fact. Nevertheless, when the underlying facts are undisputed, the Workers Compensation Board's application of legal principles is subject to unlimited appellate review.

3. When an employer is covered by the Workers Compensation Act, an employee's injury is generally compensable when the injury arises out of and in the course of employment.

4. When an employee is on duty and is injured while participating in an activity which is organized, encouraged, and supervised by the employer on company premises, and which benefits the employer as well as the employee, the activity does not fall within the K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 44-508(f) exception for "recreational and social events," and the two-pronged test of that statute does not apply.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Caplinger, J.

Affirmed.

Before McANANY, P.J., CAPLINGER and BUSER, JJ.

MCI and Zurich U.S. Insurance Company (collectively MCI) appeal the decision by the Workers Compensation Board (Board) to award claimant Edith L. Hizey compensation for an injury occurring at MCI's workplace during working hours. MCI contends the injury occurred during a "recreational or social event,"as set forth in K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 44-508(f), and did not arise "out of or in the course of" Hizey's employment.

We affirm the Board's findings and hold that when an employee is on duty and participates in an activity on company premises which is organized, encouraged, and supervised by the employer and which benefits the employer as well as the employee, the activity does not fall within K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 44-508(f)'s exception for "recreational and social events."

Factual and Procedural Background

Because Hizey offered the only evidence related to the circumstances of her injury, the underlying facts are undisputed for purposes of this appeal.

Hizey began working as a sales representative for MCI in 1992. Hizey's employment generally involved contacting potential customers by phone to attempt to sell MCI long-distance and local telephone services. However, when she was hired, Hizey was informed that she could earn extra money by participating in various incentive programs. The incentive programs, which MCI maintained throughout Hizey's employment, took two basic forms. One type of incentive was a typical performance-based program, in which sales representatives were given bonuses or extra vacation time for achieving a certain number of sales in a given period or obtaining sales above and beyond the established goal for a 2-week period.

The other type of incentive program -- the program at issue here -- created opportunities for employees to earn prizes, cash, or vacation time by voluntarily competing in contests or games, such as poker, pie-throwing contests, karaoke contests, and dance contests. These incentive activities were organized, announced, and supervised by MCI management and were designed to energize and motivate employees as well as to provide incentives for employees to remain with the company by providing additional opportunities to make money. The employees continued to be paid while they participated in the activities, and the activities always occurred ...


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