An employee was on an allowed lunch break. When he went just across the street from where he was working to eat his sandwich, he was injured. Should he get workers’ comp benefits?
Herman Huggins, a bricklayer, left his work site, bought a sandwich and sat down in a municipal bus shelter to eat it. The shelter was across the street from the work site.
A glass panel in the shelter collapsed on him, causing various injuries.
Huggins filed for workers’ comp benefits. A Workers’ Compensation Law Judge found that he sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment and awarded benefits.
On appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed the ruling.
Huggins took his case to a New York state appeals court.
New York’s workers’ compensation law states, “Lunchtime injuries are generally deemed to occur outside the scope of employment except under limited circumstances where the employer continues to exercise authority over the employees during the lunch break.”
Huggins argued that his employer maintained control over him during his lunch break because “if one of the foreman saw him and wanted him back” they would tell him to come back since he was just across the street.
The court didn’t buy that argument. It noted that he wasn’t required to carry a beeper, nor was he told where to eat his lunch.
Huggins also contended that his injury occurred sufficiently close to his work site to qualify as compensable.
Once again, the court said, “No.”
His third argument involved a theory on what caused the bus shelter to collapse: vibrations from the work site.
The court called that “entirely speculative.”
Having dismissed all his arguments, the court upheld the commission’s ruling and denied him workers’ comp benefits for his injuries.
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(Huggins v. Masonry, Appellate Div. of the Supreme Court of NY, No. 509560, 4/28/2011)