A case in New York in which an employee suffered a spinal injury while exercising as part of his company’s sponsored wellness program shows that good intentions can sometimes be costly.

Logic Technology Inc. performed on-site work for General Electric, where one of its workers suffered the injury at a GE fitness center. The worker filed for workers’ compensation from Logic Technology, and an administrative law judge affirmed the award. The company appealed to the state Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and lost. The issue finally ended up in a New York appellate court.

While the judge and WCB ruled in favor of the employee because they found the injury to have occurred during the course of his employment, the appeals court affirmed the workers’ comp award on different grounds. The court held that, though the injury did not occur because of compensated work or because the employee was required to participate in the fitness program, the company was still liable because it "sponsored" the wellness program. (The court noted that the company would not have been liable had it engaged only in "passive acquiescence" of the employee’s fitness program.)

This ruling applies only to New York so far, but if other states include "sponsored" language in their workers’ comp laws, your company might be liable for a similar claim.

Worth checking into.