Accidents on The Employer’s Premises Before or After Working Hours in Louisiana Workers Compensation
An employee is acting in the course of his employment – and thus covered by workers compensation – while the employer is actually engaged in his employer’s work, even before or after working hours.
So even if an employee has finished the day’s work and is preparing to leave, or is in the act of leaving, this employee is entitled to a reasonable period while still on the premises, and thus is covered by workers compensation.
The same also applies to periods prior to the actual beginning of work under similar circumstances. This is because the employee is still considered as acting within the course of employment.
Thus, workers compensation has been awarded to employees in the following circumstances:
- An employee who fell in the parking lot on the premises fifteen minutes before the day’s work was to begin;
- An employee who fell in an elevator on the premises forty-five minutes before the work shift began;
- An employee arriving some forty-five minutes before his scheduled working time, who was injured by slipping on a bottle in the employer’s parking lot;
- An employee who, even after being fired, was injured while completing his workday at an outlying work site to which he had been transported by his employer;
- An employee who was attacked by a jealous husband as he arrived about thirty minutes early for his scheduled shift; and
- An employee who was attacked by her estranged husband in the employer’s parking lot three minutes after the end of her shift.
Also, Louisiana workers compensation will almost always cover employees who are required to remain on the premises after hours, or who are required to arrive earlier than the start of the workday.
ACCIDENTS DURING LUNCH BREAK
An employee who leaves his employer’s premises and takes his lunch hour meal at home or some other place is not covered by workers compensation.
This employee is outside the course of his employment from the time he leaves the work premises until he returns.
However, the employee who eats at his post during stand-by periods is covered by workers compensation.
When the employee is ordered to eat on the premises, or where the location of the place of work essentially requires the employee to eat on the premises, the employee is covered by workers compensation. Such an accident which occurs during the meal hour is within the course of the employment.
ACCIDENTS DURING REST OR BREAK PERIODS
Accidents that occur on the employer’s premises during rest periods are treated similarly to accidents on the premises during lunch hour.
That is, an employee who is injured during a rest period is typically covered by workers compensation.
Louisiana courts have found that reasonable periods of rest and relaxation for the employee are essential to the employer’s business and assist in maintaining satisfactory relations between employer and employee. They are not simply intervals of time during which the employee withdraws from the relationship for the employee’s personal benefit.
Also, it does not matter that the rest periods are scheduled or whether they are allowed informally according to the requirements of the job.
The employee is covered by workers compensation, so long as the employee did not take a rest period in violation of instructions or established practices of the job.
In most jobs, there are frequent periods of enforced idleness – or “standing by” – while the employee waits until a new task is ready.
- A mechanic must put aside his work until a necessary tool is brought by his helper;
- A ditch digger must seek shelter while a rainstorm is in progress;
- A taxi driver is unavoidably idle at his station while he awaits a call.
These stand-by periods are not really rest or recreation periods, which are primarily for the employee’s own benefit or convenience.
Instead, these stand-by periods are for the benefit of the employer and thus are generally within the course of the employment, and therefore generally covered under Louisiana workers compensation.
For example, Louisiana courts have awarded workers compensation benefits to the following types of employees:
- A truck driver who was accidentally shot by a stranger playing Russian roulette while the driver was awaiting delivery of brake fluid at a service station;
- A taxi driver who was wounded by the accidental explosion of a gun with which he was playing while awaiting a call;
- A hired hand who was cut by a knife with which he was whittling while riding between places of work on his employer’s train;
- A truck driver who alternated with other drivers and was struck by a passing vehicle on the highway while awaiting the arrival of the truck to begin his shift;
- A helper hired exclusively for unloading who was injured while standing by during the loading of his truck; and
- A worker who forgot his lunch and was hungry who was injured when he fell while attempting to pick a pear from a nearby tree during a period of standing by.
The fact that an employee spends his or her standby time doing something for his own entertainment or benefit does not mean that the employee cannot recover workers compensation benefits if the employee is injured during that stand-by time.
However, if an employee abandons his post of duty, or engages in conduct that was clearly prohibited or totally unreasonable, then in all likelihood, that employee will not be able to recover workers compensation benefits if the employee is injured during that time.
EMPLOYEES “ON CALL”
There are some employees who are “on-call” twenty-four hours a day, and often use an employer-provided vehicle for that reason.
However, when such an “on-call” employee is injured in that employer-provided vehicle, it does not necessarily mean that the employee is covered under Louisiana workers compensation.
In fact, it is, unfortunately, more likely that a twenty-four-hour “on-call” employee is not covered.
Basically, Louisiana workers compensation Courts have generally rejected the employee’s argument that since he or she is “on-call” twenty-four hours a day, the employee is always at work.
For example, workers compensation was denied for the death of a highway department electrician who was on twenty-four stand-by duty to repair traffic signals and permitted to use a department vehicle for that purpose. However, when he was fatally injured, this employee was returning in the vehicle from a visit to friends.
Also, workers compensation was denied for an allegedly “on-call” employee who was fatally injured while trying to start his employer’s vehicle after he had spent several hours on a Saturday evening in a bar.
But the employee could succeed with this argument that the employee is always at work because the employee is “on-call” twenty-four hours a day – and certain employees have succeeded with this argument – if there are additional facts in the employee’s favor.
For example, workers compensation was awarded to a centrifuge serviceman who was subject to call twenty-four hours a day to service such machines on both land and sea oil rigs. This employee was provided with a truck and traveling expenses by the employer, and was using the employer’s vehicle to return home from the employer’s premises and have it available the next morning for a service call, which was within the terms of the employment contract.
Sometimes employees are injured during recreational activities, such as a company picnic, ball game, bowling match or some other entertainment sponsored by his employer.
Sometimes employees injured during recreational activities are entitled to workers compensation benefits, sometimes they are not.
It really all boils down to the specifics of each case, and whether the employee was in the course of his or her employment at the time of the accident.
For example, if athletic games are regularly scheduled during the noon meal hour so that they may be fairly regarded as a part of the routine of the employee, an employee who is injured at such an athletic game will be covered under Louisiana workers compensation.
Also, if an event is sponsored for sales promotion or if attendance by employees is compulsory, then any employee who is injured at such an event will also be covered under Louisiana workers compensation.
However, where an event is held outside regular hours and is merely sponsored by the employer, and attendance is not required, even though the employer may furnish uniforms and equipment or provide a place for the play, the employee may not be covered under Louisiana workers compensation. Different judges and different courts have come to different conclusions in situations like these.
THE LOUISIANA STATUTE ON ACCIDENTS IN THE COURSE AND SCOPE OF EMPLOYMENT IN LOUISIANA WORKERS COMPENSATION
The primary Louisiana statute on accidents in the course and scope of employment is La. R.S. 23:1031, which reads as follows:
§1031. Employee’s right of action; joint employers, extent of liability; borrowed employees
A. If an employee not otherwise eliminated from the benefits of this Chapter receives personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer shall pay compensation in the amounts, on the conditions, and to the person or persons hereinafter designated.
B. In case any employee for whose injury or death payments are due is, at the time of the injury, employed and paid jointly by two or more employers subject to the provisions of this Chapter, such employers shall contribute to such payments in proportion to their several wage liabilities to the employee; but nothing in this Section shall prevent any arrangement between the employers for different distribution, as between themselves, of the ultimate burden of such payments. If one or more but not all the employers are subject to this Chapter, then the liability of such of them as are so subject shall be to pay that proportion of the entire payments which their proportionate wage liability bears to the entire wages of the employee; but such payment by the employers subject to this Chapter shall not bar the right of recovery against any other joint employer.
C. In the case of any employee for whose injury or death payments are due and who is, at the time of the injury, employed by a borrowing employer in this Section referred to as a “special employer”, and is under the control and direction of the special employer in the performance of the work, both the special employer and the immediate employer, referred to in this Section as a “general employer”, shall be liable jointly and in solido to pay benefits as provided under this Chapter. As between the special and general employers, each shall have the right to seek contribution from the other for any payments made on behalf of the employee unless there is a contract between them expressing a different method of sharing the liability. Where compensation is claimed from, or proceedings are taken against, the special employer, then, in the application of this Chapter, reference to the special employer shall be substituted for reference to the employer, except that the amount of compensation shall be calculated with reference to the earnings of the employee under the general employer by whom he is immediately employed. The special and the general employers shall be entitled to the exclusive remedy protections provided in R.S. 23:1032.
D. An injury by accident shall not be considered as having arisen out of the employment and is thereby not covered by the provisions of this Chapter if the injured employee was engaged in horseplay at the time of the injury.
E. An injury by accident should not be considered as having arisen out of the employment and thereby not covered by the provisions of this Chapter if the employer can establish that the injury arose out of a dispute with another person or employee over matters unrelated to the injured employee’s employment.
Acts 1989, No. 454, §2, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 315, §1, eff. June 17, 1997.