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Worker’s injury while picking up lunch is still compensable

May 12, 2023

By Richard P. Gaitens, Esquire

In Baker v. Giant Eagle Inc., the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) reversed the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s ruling regarding a worker who was injured on her lunch break. The Claimant was struck by a car when crossing the street to pick up her lunch, which she typically did four times a week to take back to eat in the breakroom. The WCJ had found she was not in the course of her employment and therefore was not eligible for benefits.

The WCAB board did not agree and reversed the decision, granting her benefits. Section 301(c)(1) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act states an injury means an injury arising during the course of employment. Employers have tried to argue that workers are not in the course of their employment if they, as in this case, are on a break. However, the PA Supreme Court ruled in US Airways, Inc. v. WCAB (Bockelman) that:

the meaning of the phrase “the employer’s premises” in Section 301(c)(1) — and by extension, in the Slaugenhaupt test – is not limited to property that the employer legally owns or physically controls. Epler, 393 A.2d at 1165. Parking lots, public streets, and common areas in multi-unit office buildings, for instance, may be considered part of the employer’s premises if they are integral to the employer’s workspace or constitute a reasonable means of ingress to or egress from the workplace. Id. Id. At 176.

What does this mean? If you sustain a work injury while on break or at lunch, do not assume that you are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can evaluate the facts of your particular case and help you determine if you may be eligible for benefits.

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