Employment Responsibilities in a Recreational Setting

Posted by Johannes Schenk on June 9th, 2006 — Posted in Employment Law

There are all sorts of ways that businesses and like entities get themselves into trouble. One way is by the actions of their employees. If you run an exercise or activity based program you and your employees must understand the responsibilities that you have with respect to the supervising the safe conduct of your patrons’ activities. As an employer you must understand that you are for the most part liable for the actions (or inaction) of your employees and the consequences that follow.

One issue that frequently arises in recreational settings is: when is the session over? When is the running store run, the river rafting trip, the wrestling class, the swim lesson, the hockey game over? When does the responsibility for your employees to supervise the activity group end? The answer to that is that you and your employees must make it clear that the session is over and must ensure that the patrons have left the premises and stopped using your equipment, at least to the extent that you can control the premises and the equipment use.

The Lam case concerned a serious Judo accident that took place at an Ontario University some years ago now. The session was over and the instructor left to go home. Several of the judoka stayed after the official practice was over to continue sparring with one of the participants being rendered paraplegic. The Court found that the accident would not have occured under the instructor’s supervision with the result that liability for the accident fell on the shouldes of the instructor and his employer the Judo club. The situation was complicated by the fact that the session took place in a multi-use facility room.

Nevertheless, to avoid this type of liability you as an employer must examine the activity that you are offering and that your employees are supervising and you must ensure that your employees understand their obligations with respect to supervising the activity. You must also determine when and how the activity session will end and how you will ensure that you and your employees terminate their supervisory role over that activity.

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