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Work Injuries “On Break”


As one might imagine, workers’ compensation insurance will only cover an employee’s injury if it happens on the job. However, sometimes what exactly counts as being “on the job” is difficult to define. A common scenario where this happens is when an employee is injured while on lunch, or on a specifically defined ‘break time.’ Depending on the situation, an employer may argue that such an injury did not happen “at work,” but in many cases, jurisprudence is on the side of the employee.

Within “The Scope Of Employment”

Florida does not, as of this writing, have any state laws governing meal and rest breaks for employees. This means that federal law governs, and federal law generally requires that employees be compensated for short break periods (usually less than 20 minutes in duration), if they are offered, but does not require that lunch be compensated if it is a “bona fide meal period.” What this means is that if an employer asks an employee on lunch to do anything work-related, even if the task is very minor, the lunch period must be compensated, because it will qualify as a ‘working lunch.’

The reason this all matters is because only injuries that occur when a worker is “within the scope of their employment” are covered by workers’ compensation. If the worker is on a bona fide meal break, or on any other non-compensated time, the instinct is to presume that they are not within the scope of their employment, which means any injury that happens during that period is not compensable (with rare exceptions).

Control Is Key

In general, the issue of whether an injury is compensable or not hinges on the question of control. For example, break times are usually held to fall within the scope of one’s employment primarily because of how short they are. The employer still retains control over the employee during that period in most cases. By comparison, lunches are usually not compensable unless the employee is engaged in some kind of work task during their lunch – they last longer and there is more time for the employee to pursue their own agenda during that period.

Something to keep in mind as well is that geographic location does not matter in terms of whether an injury is compensable under workers’ compensation or not. An employee may be engaged in the course and scope of their employment without being on their employer’s premises – for example, delivery drivers are, by definition, engaged in their duties, but they are not on their employer’s premises for most of the day. The issue is not the physical location of the employee; rather, it is how much control the employer still exerts over the employee.

Contact An Orlando Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Whether a workplace injury is compensable or not can be a complex question, particularly if your job takes you off your employer’s premises for all or part of your day. If you have questions about an on-the-job injury, contacting an Orlando workers’ compensation attorney from the Hornsby Law Group is a good idea. We are happy to try and assist you – call our offices today at (407) 499-8887 for a free consultation.



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