Safety and OSHA News

Worker tripped on sidewalk while going to lunch: Did she get workers’ comp?

This employee’s injury occurred during her scheduled lunch break. Did a court grant her request for workers’ comp benefits? 

Sheryl Daniel worked as a seamstress at Bremen-Bowden Investment Co. in Georgia. One day at work, Daniel left her work station for her regularly scheduled lunch break and planned to drive home. She had parked in a lot owned by the employer. To get to the lot, Daniel had to walk down a public sidewalk and across the street.

As she walked to her car, Daniel tripped on the sidewalk and was injured. She sought temporary total disability (TTD) benefits beginning the day after her injury and payment of medical bills.

An administrative law judge concluded Daniel was entitled to TTD and medical expense reimbursement under the ingress and egress rule on a scheduled lunch break. Bremen-Bowen appealed.

The Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation reversed the ALJ’s award, concluding Daniel’s injury didn’t arise out of her employment because it occurred while she was on a regularly scheduled break. A court affirmed the Board’s decision. Now the Court of Appeals of Georgia has heard the case.

Under Georgia’s workers’ comp law, a workplace injury must arise out of and in the course of employment to be compensable.

However, Georgia courts established exceptions:

  • for injuries occurring during a regularly scheduled lunch or rest break and at a time an employee is free to do as she chooses, and
  • where an employee is injured while still on the employer’s premises while going to or coming from work (ingress and egress rule).

But in a 2018 case, the Appeals Court ruled the ingress and egress rule doesn’t extend to cases in which the employee is injured while leaving and returning to work on a regularly scheduled lunch break.

Since Daniel’s injury occurred while she was leaving her employer’s property during her regularly scheduled lunch break, her injury isn’t compensable under Georgia’s workers’ comp law, the Appeals Court ruled.

(Daniel v. Bremen-Bowden Investment Co., Court of Appeals of Georgia, No. A18A1764, 2/26/19)

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