In my previous posts, I discussed the sometime difficult issue of whether you are “in the course and scope of your employment” at the time an injury occurs.  A recent case highlights the difficulty.

The Facts:

  • The employee worked at the employers tool and die business.
  • His job is to make sure the employer’s machines are running smoothly.
  • While working on his midnight shift, the employee checks all the machines to ensure they are working.
  • After he checks the machines, the employee tells his co-workers that he would be in the tool and die room for a couple of minutes.
  • While in the tool and die room, the employee polished a bolt for his child’s go-cart with an emery cloth.
  • As he was doing this, the employee’s left thumb was drawn into a lathe resulting in the loss of his thumb.

The Court’s Decision:

  • When determining if an employee is engaging in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer, which is usually expressed as “in the course of employment”, the court should construe this term in a liberal fashion.
  • The employee is entitled to compensation for any injury occurring on the premises of the employer during the hours of employment so long as there is nothing to show that the employee abandoned the “course of his employment” or was engaged in something wholly foreign thereto.
  • The employee made a decision to leave his work responsibilities and  perform a personal task, unrelated to his job duties.
  • The employee was not injured in the furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs.
  • Because the employee had actively disengaged himself from his work responsibilities, he was not in the “course of his employment” at the time of his work injury.

The Lesson:

  • If a court, under the circumstances, concludes you have departed from your employment at the time you are injured you are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.  In this instance, the court focused on both the amount of time that the employee departed and the purely personal nature of what he was doing at the time he was injured.

If you have questions regarding your rights under Workers’ Compensation, please contact one of Stark & Stark’s experienced attorneys.