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5665 147th St. N.
Hugo, MN 55038


Smoking Santa?


A few years ago I came across a Minnesota Supreme Court opinion I found humorous.   The opinion was written in 1923, nearly 100 years ago.


The case addressed the question of whether a man injured while working as a Santa Claus was entitled to Worker's Compensation benefits.   The story goes that a hardware store hired a gentleman to be Santa Claus at the store during the Christmas season.  The store asked Santa to hand out nuts, chocolates, and the like to patrons.  The hardware store supplied the Santa costume and a private changing room.


In the course of spreading holiday cheer children would tug at poor ol' Santa.  Even Santa gets annoyed sometimes.  In 1923 what does Santa do to relieve the stress?  He goes into the employer provided changing room to have a smoke.  Back in 1923, the Supreme Court's opinion was that smoking cigarette in the workplace was an "indulgence of employees reasonably to be expected by employers."  Unfortunately for Santa, the cigarette lit his beard on fire and he was burned.  


Despite the injuries and original denial of benefits by the Industrial Commission, the Supreme Court concluded Santa was hurt in the course and scope of his employment.  Thus, Santa got paid.


While the law has changed over the years as to what is the workplace, who is an employee, and what are reasonable expectations, it goes to show that the supreme court is consistent.  If you are a Santa this season, mind your beard, I don't think the decision would be the same in 2018.


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