For an injury to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, the injury must occur during the “course and scope” of employment.
New Jersey law doesn’t require employers to offer meals or rest breaks of any kind.
In many cases, simply being on the job or at the employer’s place of work will not be enough to establish workers’ compensation benefits, but it depends.
On Break On the Job
The minor deviations rule holds that an employee is not ineligible for compensation simply because you:
“Stopped work to have a smoke, or get some fresh air, or use the telephone, or satisfy other human needs incidental to being at the place of employment. It is clear that injuries that occur during such minor deviations are generally sufficiently related to the employment to call for compensation. Similarly, employees may stop work to satisfy their interest in a passing parade, a strange object, or their curiosity generally. So long as the deviation is minor, it should be disregarded.”
Thus, if you’re taking a minor break on-premises or are eating lunch on your desk or in the break room during paid time, you will often receive workers’ compensation. The same is true if you receive the unpaid time, remain on the customer’s premises, and are engaged in a customary activity that your employer encourages or benefits from.
However, you won’t be covered for your lunch break if you take a customary unpaid lunch break away from the premises.
Off-Premises Personal Errands
If you’re injured while performing a personal errand during your work day, the injury won’t be covered.
In the 2003 case Jumpp v. City of Ventnor, Robert Jumpp served as a pumping station operator. He traveled daily throughout the city to perform his duty. He had no set time for lunch or coffee breaks but was permitted to make brief stops at local establishments for food and beverages or to use a restroom. As a matter of habit, he also stopped to retrieve his personal mail from the post office en route to one of his job sites, which his supervisor knew about and allowed.
Yet when Jumpp was injured on the job on his way to check his personal mail, courts denied his benefits. They admitted the stop was only a “minor deviation” from his responsibilities but said he was not engaged in directly performing his duties, and so was not covered.
Get Help Today
As you can see, the law is very complicated, and minor deviations in the facts of a case can lead to very different outcomes.
If your workers’ compensation has been denied, call us to review your case, even if you were injured on lunch or a break. We can look at the specific facts of your case and tell you whether you are likely to prevail. Don’t try to do guesswork.
Contact us to get started today.