In the scope and course of your employment, injuries can happen. In any industry, there’s a chance of an accident occurring or an illness developing over time. Fortunately, workers’ compensation exists to cover your medical bills and time off work during these incidents.
But what happens when your injury occurs while you’re on break or having lunch?
This is the scenario an employee of luxury restaurant Kyma is facing after being shot in the arm while on his break. According to Atlanta police, they were summoned to the Piedmont Road restaurant on September 12 around 8 p.m. with a report of gunfire.
The employee had stepped outside of the restaurant for a break when a dark-colored sedan driving away from the parking lot opened fire on him. When police arrived on the scene, the employee had 2 gunshot wounds to the arm, but was stable. He was immediately taken to the hospital for treatment.
The restaurant employee later recounted that there were 2 men in the sedan. Since the gun was fired from inside the vehicle, the window of the suspects’ car was shattered and left bits of glass behind. The owner of Kyma, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, has not released a statement about the incident at this time.
After this shooting, along with other recent crimes and safety concerns, there has been a movement for Buckhead to be declared its own city and have a designated police force.
“The city of Atlanta simply cannot keep the entire city safe. We believe it is in the best interest of the entirety of metro Atlanta to have a police force in Buckhead City that can adequately deal with crime and take the pressure off of the Atlanta Police Department by reducing the areas they need to patrol,” said Buckhead Exploratory Committee President Sam Lenaeus.
Workers’ compensation benefits during breaks
This shooting, while terrible, could’ve ended much worse. It also raises difficult questions for employees who are seeking workers’ compensation—namely:
Are injuries that happen while on break covered by workers’ compensation?
In most cases, the employee must establish that they were injured within the course of their employment, rather than during an “individual pursuit.”
In a landmark case titled Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation, the Georgia courts held that an employee’s lunch break or rest period during a workday is an individual pursuit, not the course of employment. This means injuries that occur during a lunch break or rest period may not be covered by workers’ compensation.
Although this decision has held for some time, it was recently reaffirmed and broadened. In that case, the courts decided that a worker who was preparing to leave for their lunch break, but still on employer grounds, was also not entitled to compensation for injuries.
This case served to confirm the so-called “lunch break exception” to workers’ compensation rights. In essence, if you aren’t working, you aren’t entitled to benefits.
However, the distinction between “scheduled breaks” and “unscheduled breaks” complicates things further.
In the case of Wilkie v. Travelers Insurance Company, an employee was injured during a restroom visit on a scheduled 10-minute break from work. Because this was a scheduled break, the court determined that the employee was “free to use the time as they pleased,” and thus “any injury that occurs during this time is due to an individual pursuit, not due to his or her employment.”
In short, if you’re hurt during a scheduled break, you will most likely not be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Are you confused yet?
Don’t worry; we’re here to help! At Gerber & Holder Law, we understand how complicated the rules and laws of Georgia workers’ compensation can be. It’s our job to handle the legal paperwork while it’s your job to rest and recover.