If you’re hurt during a lunch or work break, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Under Georgia law, a worker may file a claim depending on what kind of break they were on when the work injury occurred.
The law differentiates cases based on whether or not an injury happened during a scheduled break versus an unscheduled break.
The law regarding work injuries during scheduled breaks is best exemplified in the case of Wilkie v. Travelers Ins. Co. Wilkie, the employee, was injured when she fell while on her way to the restroom during a 10-minute scheduled rest break.
The Georgia Court of Appeals wrote: “...in ‘lunch break’ and ‘rest break’ cases, both the Supreme Court and this court have laid down the rule that where the employee is free to use the time as he chooses so that it is personal to him, an injury occurring during this time arises out of his individual pursuit and not out of his employment.”
This means that when employees are on a scheduled breaks, their employers do not exercise any control over them. If an accident results in an injury during this time, the injury will not be covered by workers’ compensation.
Unscheduled breaks, however, are treated differently.
In the case of Edwards v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, et al., Lurene Edwards worked as a seamstress in a garment factory. She was injured when she went to the bathroom, not during a scheduled rest break, but at an unscheduled time after the morning break.
She filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At the trial level, the judge found that Edwards did sustain an injury which should be covered under workers’ compensation. The Full Board affirmed, but the superior court reversed the finding and the case was appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The court ruled that it was well settled that if an employer provides employees with scheduled rest breaks where they are free to use the time as they choose, then if the worker is hurt during this time, the injury will not be covered under workers’ compensation. The court, however, refused to extend the rule to situations regarding unscheduled work breaks.
“[W]hen the employee finds it necessary to go to the restroom, even though he is permitted to do so without obtaining permission from his supervisor”, it is not the employee’s free time as it cannot be considered an “altogether personal pursuit, as is the case during scheduled breaks.”
Therefore, Edwards was successful in recovering her workers’ compensation benefits.
Were You Injured While on Break at Work?
Talk to one of our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys. We can go over the facts of your claim and advise you on the best course of action to take. You deserve to understand your rights and receive compensation for your injuries, even if you were injured while on break.
If you have questions about a work accident or on-the-job injury, contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates at (770) 934-8000.