Injuries On Breaks: Do You Get Workers’ Compensation?
Most people are aware that if you are injured on the job that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help you with your medical expenses and lost wages.
But what does it mean to be “on the job?” Sometimes, that’s an easy question to answer. But other times, such as when people are injured on short breaks or rests during the work day, that question becomes more difficult.
Course and Scope of Employment
Workers’ compensation covers injuries that are sustained while the worker is in the course and scope of his or her employment, or the injury occurs in furtherance of the worker’s job duties. But in many cases, a workday can have many periods when a worker isn’t doing anything in furtherance of their work duties.
A worker may take a quick drive to the neighborhood drug store to get a drink. A worker may step outside for a smoke break. A worker may just need to go downstairs and get some fresh air and take a walk. If the worker were to be injured during those times, can the worker still receive workers’ compensation?
Courts Have Allowed Benefits
Although the answer would seem to be no, courts have been very generous in defining what “course and scope” of employment actually is.
The first question to ask is whether the injury occurred on premises, or at the job site. If so, it will usually be covered. Offsite injuries, such as when an employee leaves for a lunch break, or when the boss asks the worker to run an errand, or when the worker just takes a quick drive to the store, become a bit more complex to analyze.
Courts will look to see how much control your employer had over you, during your break. Does your boss email or text you work things during your break, and expect you to respond? Does your boss restrict your movements, such as telling you that you can only eat lunch or take a break at certain locations?
If you are on a lunch break offsite, and the boss asks for you to stop and pick something up for him on your way home, that also is more likely to cover you under workers’ compensation if you’re injured.
Comfort Breaks are Covered
Courts have also said that when workers take a break to attend to their own comfort—which would indicate a mental health break, smoke break, or just to rest—that these breaks are still considered “at work.” This is as long as the duration of the break is not substantial. The law recognizes that workers do need short, reasonable breaks to perform their duties, and giving them those breaks is part of the workday, and thus, workers’ compensation will be provided if there is an injury during these breaks.
The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you recover damages for injuries sustained in any kind of accident. Schedule a consultation today.