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Pokemon Go and Workers’ Compensation

Alright, dear readers, bear with me, because you’re about to get a dose of two-parts nerd and two-parts dork.

For the longest time, Nintendo has had a franchise called “Pokemon” in which the players collect and train fictional monsters.  Well, modern technology has allowed this franchise to go one step further: the Pokemon Go game allows players to use their GPS and a basic map function to search for these monsters in the real world, and to “catch” them by using the phone’s camera function.

If I haven’t lost you yet, dear readers, I’m about to tie this into workers’ compensation.

The “monsters” appear just about everywhere, but especially in publicly frequented areas and businesses – at Whole Foods by the deli, on the street in front of Pottery Barn, in the waiting room at the local Dignity Health hospital.  You know where else they appear?

While crossing the street.  While driving. While standing in a dangerous area.  This addicting little game which seems to be garnering a lot of attention on social media is also providing a vehicle for a lot of accidents and injuries.  Not only can employers expect their own less-attentive workers to sustain injuries due to being oblivious or taking ridiculous chances while going about their duties, but third parties can be expected to be careless as well.

A Man "catches" a monster as his wife gives birth.

A Man “catches” a monster as his wife gives birth.

Just a thought, dear readers – given this latest craze, employers left and right can expect to lose productivity from their employees as they chase virtual monsters all around them.  Let’s not double the loss by seeing a spike in “work-related” injuries.

Some ways to combat this?  Well, if the employer provides the actual phones for the employees, care should be taken to restrict which applications can be loaded onto the phone (hint: Pokemon game should probably be blocked).

If the employees are bringing their own phones, clear instructions should be made to ban such activity, and, really, the careless use of the phone while walking around or driving.

Finally, if there are any injuries reported that make you scratch your head and ask “who could possibly be THAT oblivious?!?” it’s time to investigate possible smart phone use.  Even if this doesn’t lead to an outright denial of the claim, it may give rise to a reduction of employee benefits under Labor Code section 4551 (employee serious and willful misconduct).

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