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Does Workers’ Comp Cover Injuries During a Work Break?

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Posted By DAM Firm | June 14 2024 | Workers' Compensation

If you are going to get injured at work, try to do it during regular work hours.

The reality is that work injury claims can be challenging, and whether or not you can recover compensation for an injury that occurred during a scheduled or unscheduled break isn’t necessarily straightforward. Generally, most individuals will be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits if they sustain an on-the-job injury. However, businesses handle brakes differently. Sometimes, breaks are considered on-duty time, whereas sometimes, they are not.

Does Workers' Comp Cover Injuries During a Work Break

What Counts as a Break Under California Law?

Under California law, employees are entitled to breaks, which include meal breaks and rest breaks. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, non-exempt employees must receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours worked. Additionally, employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked. These breaks are considered part of the regular work schedule and are thus subject to specific rules and protections.

A break is defined as a period where the employee is relieved of all duties and can use the time for their purposes. If the employer requires the employee to remain on the premises or be on-call during their break, it might be considered on-duty time, impacting the eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.

What Kinds of Injuries Could Occur?

Injuries during a work break can vary widely depending on the nature of the job and the workplace environment. Common injuries that could occur include:

  • Slip and falls. Employees might sustain a slip and fall injury on wet floors, trip over obstacles, or fall due to uneven surfaces.
  • Burns or cuts. Particularly in workplaces like kitchens or manufacturing, employees might suffer cuts or burn injuries while handling equipment or tools.
  • Repetitive strain injuries. These can result from activities such as typing or assembly line work, even if these activities are done during breaks.
  • Sports or recreational injuries. Some workplaces provide recreational facilities, and injuries might occur during the use of these facilities.
  • Vehicle accidents. For employees who leave the workplace during their break, vehicle accidents can occur.

Eligibility of Workers’ Compensation for an Injury During Break

Determining eligibility for workers’ compensation for injuries sustained during a break depends on several factors, including the nature of the break and the circumstances of the injury. Here are some key considerations:

  • On-premises injuries. If an injury occurs on the employer’s premises during a break, it is more likely to be covered by workers’ compensation. This includes injuries in the break room, cafeteria, or any designated break areas.
  • Off-premises injuries. Injuries that occur off the employer’s premises during a break might be more challenging to claim. If the break is unpaid and the employee is free to leave the premises, the injury may not be covered unless the employee is performing a work-related task.
  • On-call during breaks. If the employee is required to be on-call or perform any job-related duties during their break, injuries sustained during this time are more likely to be covered.
  • Company-sponsored activities. Injuries sustained during company-sponsored activities, even if they occur during a break, may be covered by workers’ compensation. This includes events like team-building exercises or recreational activities provided by the employer.
  • Personal comfort doctrine. Under the personal comfort doctrine, injuries sustained while attending to personal needs, such as using the restroom or getting a drink of water, may still be covered if they occur during a break on the employer’s premises.

If you have questions about the injury you have sustained at work and whether or not you should be able to receive benefits, please reach out to a San Bernardino workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible.