Do you think every injury taking place in the workplace environment automatically rises to the level of a compensable Workers’ Compensation claim? If you do, you’d be wrong! Sometimes employer’s feel as though workers’ comp is a lost cause, that they lose no matter what the circumstances…
Here’s what Happened
A shipping clerk, who usually took a lunch break walk around the employer’s property, tripped and fell, injuring her shoulder. She filed a workers’ compensation claim, arguing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission the walks were “incidental to” her employment. She argued her claim by citing the health benefits of walking, which in turn made her a healthier worker and prevented absences as she suffered a number of health problems. The Commission agreed with her.
But, not so fast! The Compensation Review Board overturned the WCC decision saying the worker’s shoulder injury was not related to her work as a shipping clerk. The case went to the State Appellate Court. The Appellate Court upheld the Compensation Review Board’s decision.
The three judge panel said the employee’s argument stating walking was good for her health and prevented absences thus benefitting her employer was invalid because:
“This argument ignores that (workers compensation) coverage does not turn on whether the activity is beneficial to one’s health. Coverage in such cases turns on whether the activity in question is incidental to one’s employment and has nothing to do with whether the activity is recreational in nature.”
In addition, the Appellate Court found no supporting evidence the employee “in undertaking her physical fitness regimen . . . intended to benefit her employer,” even though employer “acquiesced” to employees’ walking during the lunch hour. The employer did not promote or encourage employees to do so. In essence, during lunch break employees are considered “off the clock” and on their own time.
Extracted from: “A Walk in the Park” by Howard French, Journal Inquirer, Saturday, 2/7/09; Workers’ Compensation Commission-2006; Compensation Review Board-2007; Appellate Court, Feb. 2009; (All in State of Connecticut)
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