Was Injured Worker Entitled to Benefits When He Was Off Duty?
In some professions, employees are expected to punch into the time stamp their attendance. Others may allow something as casual as a handwritten time sheet. Almost always, there is a clear indication when someone is on or off duty. So, how exactly is a determination made of when an injured worker is entitled to benefits?
First, let’s clarify. When we say benefits, we are speaking of workers’ compensation payments for medical expenses, lost time and a possible portion of permanent disability. Notably, there is a work requirement within the law in order to qualify for compensation.
According to NJSA 34:15-7, one of the expectations for benefits is that the injuries were related to an “accident arising out of and in the course of employment.” So, how could someone off duty possibly expect to receive benefits? See how the court ruled in a recent unpublished decision. The fact that it is unpublished means that it only applies to the parties named in the case.
Off Duty Worker Entitled to Benefits?
The matter of Grawehr v. Township of East Hanover involves an injury claim made by a police officer. Grawehr was not on shift when he was hurt. Instead, he was on the municipal property for two purposes. On his way into police headquarters, Grawehr slipped and fell on ice in the municipal parking lot.
On the one hand, Grawehr was at headquarters to collect his pay stub. The Township argued that his presence was personal in nature. However, Grawehr had another objective as well. As a police officer, Grawehr was expected to testify in cases where he made arrests or issued citations. He was at headquarters to check when his appearance was next expected in court.
There was some confusion with records when East Hanover combined with another municipality. As a result, many officers failed to show up for hearings and were subject to disciplinary action for failure to appear. Grawehr had never missed an appearance.
According to testimony, it was not uncommon for diligent police officers to come in on their days off to check their personal folders for subpoenas requiring them to be in court. In making its determination concerning compensability, the court found that Grawehr’s actions were to the benefit of his employer. He was therefore entitled to benefits.
The other issue, in this case, involved the fact that Grawehr was hurt while coming into work. Notwithstanding, he was injured in a lot controlled by his employer.
Once again, this is an isolated case that offers an interesting read on an off duty employee hurt at work.