In the aftermath of a workplace injury, you may have the right to collect workers’ compensation benefits for your disability, as well as reimbursement or payment of medical expenses tied to your injury. In New Jersey, as in most states, there are only two requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation: you must show that you suffered an injury and you must demonstrate that it was work-related.
When you’ve been hurt in a traumatic accident on the job, meeting those tests can be relatively straightforward. With a repetitive stress or motion injury, it becomes a bit more of a challenge. There are, though, certain situations where it may be unclear whether you were “on the job.” This series of blogs looks at some of those uncertain instances.
Under certain labor laws, workers have a right to take regular breaks, including time away from the desk or assembly line for meals. Technically, when you are sitting in the break room or cafeteria, you’re not doing what you get paid to do. Does that mean you can’t recover workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured while on break? As a general rule, it does not—regularly scheduled breaks constitute a part of your work and you can customarily seek and receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries suffered in the company break or lunch room.
As with most rules, though, there are exceptions. You may be prevented from recovering workers’ compensation benefits if you were engaged in horseplay at the time of the injury or doing something that was contrary to established company policy. In addition, if you leave company premises while on break, you typically cannot seek workers’ compensation benefits for injuries incurred, unless you had a work purpose for leaving the grounds. For example, if your supervisor sends you to get food for other employees or to drop off a package at the post office, you will probably be eligible for workers’ compensation for injuries suffered on the way there or back. However, if you deviate from the route for any personal errand, injuries suffered on that detour won’t qualify you for work comp benefits.
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