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Injured While on a Break: Are You Covered?

A frequently asked question by employees is whether or not an injury is covered if they are on a scheduled break from work.  The answer to this is complex.

coffee-breakThe location where the accident took place and the type of break will usually determine if it is compensable. If you are being denied benefits because your employer claims you were on a break when the injury was sustained, contact a St. Louis workers’ compensation attorney. It could be that your employer is mistaken about how the law is structured in regards to required break periods.

Two Types of Break Periods

Generally, an employee is entitled to two different types of break periods throughout the workday. One is the meal period, which is usually an hour and is unpaid time while the others are short fifteen minute breaks where the employee is not required to clock out. The meal time break normally falls within the same classification as the coming and going rule. The employer should not be held responsible for an injury to one of its employees while they are traveling to or from work. In the same way, they should not be held responsible to pay for an injury that occurs while the employee is off of the clock and out of the building.

Paid Time Away From the Office

Certain exceptions may be made if the break is a paid time away from the office, or if you are injured on the premises while having your lunch. Another exception is if your lunch break serves as a secondary work related purpose, like a meeting with a client. In these instances, an administrative law judge may find that the accident did occur during the scope of the employees work duties.

Injury During a Coffee Break

The shorter breaks throughout the course of the workday are almost always covered by workman’s compensation. The reason being is that they usually occur on the work premises and the employee is not required to go off of the clock during one. There have been instances where an employer will try to deny compensation for a coffee break injury. For example, a case that was just resolved this past month involved an employee who was injured when she left the building to have a smoke break. Her employee tried to deny coverage, but the judge felt that her being on the clock at the time of the incident as well as the location of the facility used for a smoke break warranted that the employer pay for her medical care as well as continue to pay her a portion of her weekly salary while she was temporarily disabled.

Anytime you are denied coverage for a work related injury, for whatever reason, you should ask a trusted Missouri workman’s compensation attorney for advice on how to proceed. Employers have been known to deny coverage in an attempt to avoid a rise in their insurance premium. Contact The Law Firm of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300.  We will be able to see through that tactic and help you with the appeal process to get you the compensation you deserve.

Photo credit: roberthuffstutter

Updated: February 18, 2014