A New York appeals court recently ruled that a worker's break was so short and customary that it did not interrupt his ability to receive workers' compensation for an injury he sustained on the break. The worker in the case was involved in a car accident when he picked up dinner for other employees. Workers in New York injured at the workplace over short breaks may look to the case for guidance.
The short break case addresses the issue of "scope" within workers' compensation law in New York. Generally, employees who are injured at work are covered by workers' compensation if the injury occurred when the worker was performing duties within the scope of his or her employment, whereas employees who are injured outside of the performance of their work duties are not covered. For example, an employee who is injured at home while completing a non-work task will not likely be covered by workers' compensation. The question of whether an employee is injured within the scope of work is often decided by the facts of each case.
In the short break case, the employee was a car salesperson. During his scheduled shift, he asked and received permission from his supervisor to pick up two dinners for the company's finance manager and bring the dinners back to the workplace. While on the authorized break to pick up the dinners the salesman got into a car accident with his own car.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York agreed with the state's workers' compensation board and ruled accidents that occur during short breaks, such as coffee breaks, are so short as to not interrupt the course of employment. The appellate court noted a few of the case's facts that led it to this decision. The court observed that the employee was on his way back to the workplace when the crash happened and had only been gone for 15 minutes before the accident occurred close to the dealership. The court also noted that the dealership customarily allowed employees to leave the workplace on short, paid breaks. Because of the ruling, employees in New York who are injured while on short breaks at work should not necessarily worry their right to workers' compensation will be threatened.
If you have suffered an injury or illness at work, contact an experienced New York workers' compensation attorney to review your legal options.