Understanding Worker’s Comp When Not at Work

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Workers’ compensation is usually reserved for employee’s injured while working or at work. Sometimes employees are injured while taking a break or away from the office.


In most cases, the worker cannot recover money from their employer for injuries sustained.  However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule.

Lunch and Coffee Breaks

Generally injuries during lunch and coffee breaks are not eligible for workers’ compensation because most breaks take place outside of the office or work site and are not compensated. However, there are some conditions that will make lunch or coffee breaks work related and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation.

  • Paid – If you are paid during the period of your lunch or coffee break, you can probably receive workers’ compensation for any injuries during that period.
  • On Premises– Even if you are not paid during your lunch or coffee break, you can recover if you were injured while on your employer’s premises. For example, if you ate lunch at your desk and were injured, you can probably receive workers’ compensation.
  • Work-related – If your lunch or break was work related, you can probably get workers’ compensation. For example, if the primary purpose of lunch was to talk business, it may be considered as a work-related activity. Another way your break may become work-related is if you were buying coffee for your boss.

Traveling to and from Work

Generally, if you are traveling to or from work and are injured, you cannot get workers’ compensation.  For example, if you got into a car accident while driving to work, you probably cannot get workers’ compensation because the injury was not in “the course of your employment.” However, there are some exceptions to the rule.

  • Paid – If you are paid for the time you take while traveling to and from work, you can most likely recover compensation.
  • Errand– If you are on your way completing an errand for your employer, you can probably recover, as long as you were injured while primarily doing the errand. If you were hurt while doing something personal while running the errand, it will depend on how much you were distracted.
  • Employer’s premises– If you were injured while on premises controlled by your employer, such your employer’s parking lot, you may be able to recover. Also, if you were injured outside of your employer’s office while waiting for it to open, you might be able to get workers’ compensation.

Injury after Working Hours

Generally, injuries that happen before or after work are excluded from workers’ compensation benefits. However, you may still be eligible if you were doing something that benefited your employer.

For example, if your employer asked you to run an errand outside of your normal hours, and you were injured during that time, you can probably receive workers’ compensation. Even if your employer didn’t ask you to do something, as long as you were doing something that helped your employer, you might be able to recover.

In one case, an employee came to work on her day off to drop off a card. She noticed that a book shelf was collapsing and helped her co-workers fix it. In the process, she injured her back.

Although she was injured outside of her working hours, the board ruled that she was entitled to workers’ compensation.