January 30, 2015

Break Time Injuries Still Compensable

Recently the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board upheld a case where a claimant who was on his regular shift took a cigarette break while on the premises of the employer and was bitten by a co-worker’s dog; the injury was found to be compensable. The case was defended under the course and scope of employment Section 301(c)(1) – 77 P.S. 411(1). 1912 Hoover House Rest. v. W.C.A.B. No. 309 C.D. 2014 (November 10, 2014).

In this matter the claimant had prevailed at the judge level and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the judge’s rule in granting the claim petition. They opined that the claimant, on his regular shift as a restaurant line cook, had taken a cigarette break and during the same was bit in the face by a co-employee’s pet dog. They further opined that the injury arose in the course and scope of employment and such injuries are compensable since the claimant never actively disengaged from work at the time of the injury.

What It Means to You

Playing this forward you can see that Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation judges as well as the WCAB will find in the claimant’s favor for other injuries such as slip and falls as being compensable while employees are on their regular scheduled breaks or, as in this case, smoke breaks. Therefore, due diligence should be observed when allowing a claimant’s excessive breaks or smoke breaks as Workers’ Compensation liability goes with them.