They call it workers’ comp, right? Then why did this employee get comp benefits for an injury that occurred when she wasn’t working?
Margaret Fischer was a visiting nurse and visited several patients daily.
One day, after completing a 1:30 p.m. appointment, she checked in with her supervisor and was told she could get lunch because her next appointment wasn’t until 3:30.
Fischer got lunch at an outdoor festival. As she was returning to her car after lunch, she fell and broke her arm. She applied for workers’ compensation benefits.
She was awarded benefits, and her employer and its insurance carrier appealed. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board agreed that she should get comp, and the company took the case to a state appeals court.
The employer agreed that Fischer was an “outside employee” who was entitled to expanded, portal-to-portal workers’ comp coverage and that it was “reasonable and customary for her to have obtained a meal” between assignments.
After agreeing to that, the only avenue of appeal is to claim that her travel to the festival for lunch was so unreasonable that it constituted a disqualifying deviation from her employment.
The court found that the festival wasn’t a significant departure from Fischer’s route to her next appointment. The judges noted she was paid after her lunch break even if she had no scheduled appointments since she carried a beeper to respond to her employer.
The court said Fischer’s lunch break at the festival didn’t constitute a disqualifying deviation from her employment and she should get comp benefits.
Workers’ comp laws vary from state to state, but some do give extended coverage to employees who travel as part of their jobs.
(Fischer v. Kaleida Health, Appellate Div. of Supreme Crt. of NY, No. 510511, 2/10/11)
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