Submitted by New Jersey Workers Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
This very important recent decision reiterates and clarifies the benefits employees who go into work on their day off to help their employer and get injured in the process are entitled to under new Jersey Workes Compensation law.
In this case a police officer went to work on his day off to pick up his paycheck and check on his municipal court subpoenas and testimony schedule to make sure he knew when to be in court. Recently his employer Township and another Township consolidate courts and there was a great deal of problems with officers getting to court on time and date. When the police officer was leaving the police department he slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot causing injury. He brought this Worker’s Compensation claim seeking medical benefits and temporary disability benefits.
The township denied the claim arguing he was not working in the course of his employment when he showed up on his day off and thus not entitled to benefits. The sole issue in the case is whether the police/employee who comes to work on his/her day off to perform an act for the betterment of the employer is entitled to workers compensation coverage. In other words is the employee performing his job duties and functions on his day off, even if he’s not supposed to be there, and is the employer receiving the benefit of the employee being present on the job. This is a fact specific question. In this case the officer’s attorney called several other employees and the court staff as witnesses to properly and independently support his factual version of the events to support his argument that he was there for the betterment of his employer!
There is a little bit of overlap with New Jersey Workers Compensation law addressing ‘the going and coming Rule’ and when employment starts. In this case there is no dispute the officer fell in the parking lot. When an employee arrives at work and parked in the parking lot and there for the betterment of the employer the ‘going and coming rule’ dictates that he is protected by workers compensation laws when he parks his car even if he hasn’t actually started his/her shift and ‘clocks in’.
In this case the employee slipped after he had left the building.
Arguably, this is a further attenuation of the ‘going and coming rule‘ however the key issue as a matter fact was whether he was bettering his employment and employer by appearing on his day off.
The court ruled, and the appellate division affirmed, the works compensation judge’s findings of fact and application of the law to this case. The appellate division would not overturn the compensation judge unless the judge’s decision so far wide of the mark. That was not the case here. The court ruled the police officer was bettering his employer when he was there, even on his day off when he was diligently checking his court schedule. As a result his fall in the parking lot as he was leaving was a covered workers compensation event.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.