Whether or not an injury during an employee’s lunch break is covered under New York’s Workers’ Compensation is a sticky subject. There is no cut and dried rule. However, employee’s who have a fixed period of time for lunch are generally not covered if they leave the employer’s premises. That is because an employee’s actions while on a lunch break are deemed outside the scope of their employment.
When Might You Be Covered?
That being said, there are exceptions to the lack of coverage. Certain outside employees, who continue to be “on the clock” even when they are off the premises will likely be covered during a lunch break. If the employer still has control over the employee during a lunch break, whether the employee remains on site or not, there may be coverage.
For example, maybe a worker is said to be on their lunch break, but continues to perform work duties in between bites because of employer expectations. This worker, who is injured while on lunch, may have the right to pursue coverage. Another method of control over an employee on a lunch break may be if they are on call and expected to answer to a phone call, beeper, or in-person request. A lunch meeting resulting in some type of benefit to the employer will likely be covered.
Additionally, if an employee took a short break to grab a drink of coffee or small snack, then a court may not consider this a break in employment, and the employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Again, there is extensive case law with somewhat inconsistent rulings regarding whether particular facts result in New York Workers’ Compensation coverage or not. The specific facts of a case will matter, including whether an employee’s lunch break was paid, whether or not a worker left the premises, whether or not the employer derived any benefit from the employee’s conduct during the break, and whether or not the employee participated in any non employment-related activity during the break.
If you have any questions regarding the compensability of your injury, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.