The Mighty C-159 Form: The Recreational Waiver
By Christopher R. Debski
So it’s that time of year again, the company’s annual football game, and the following thought crosses your mind: If Jim from Accounting runs into a linebacker and tears up his knee, will the company be looking at yet another expensive workers’ compensation claim – one that will cause the company’s premiums to skyrocket through the roof?!? The answer depends on whether a little known Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation form was executed prior to the employer-sponsored event. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about “The Mighty C-159 Form,” also known as the “recreational waiver.”
Under the Ohio Revised Code, agreements to waive an employee’s rights to workers’ compensation benefits are generally void, but there are some exceptions. The first gives blind employees the ability to expressly waive their entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits (a discussion worthy of a separate article on its own). The second, more significant exception involves employer-sponsored recreation or fitness activities/events. The general rule is as follows: Injuries sustained while participating in an employer-sponsored recreation or fitness activity are compensable unless the employee signs a waiver (i.e., the C-159 form) of his rights to compensation before participating in the activity.
The requirements are simple: 1) participation in the employer-sponsored recreation or fitness activity must be voluntary; 2) the waiver must specifically list all the employer-sponsored activities and fitness programs for which the employee wishes to waive workers’ compensation coverage; 3) the employee must sign and date the form prior to the date of injury, or, in an occupational disease claim, the date of disability; 4) the employer must retain the original executed form for its files and provide a copy to the employee; and 5) the employer should submit a copy to the BWC only if a claim is filed for an injury or occupational disease sustained in the employer-sponsored recreational activity or fitness program, and the employer contests the claim on the basis of the waiver.
There are two important limitations to this waiver, though: 1) the waiver is only valid for two calendar years; and 2) the waiver may not bar any workers’ compensation claim filed for death benefits by the employee’s dependents.
So remember, in preparing for your next company picnic or company football game, make sure you have signed C-159's on file. They could save you the headache of dealing with yet another workers’ compensation claim and, more importantly, help keep your workers’ compensation premiums down.
Interested in learning more about the C-159? Chris and the workers comp team are standing by.