In a recent case covered in the Chicago Tribune, an employee at a downtown drugstore was severely injured when a car struck him during his lunch break. The impact fractured his left femur and caused serious tissue damage to his lower left leg. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that the injury was not work-related because it occurred while the man was off the clock and away from the workplace. He was not awarded workers’ compensation.
Danger for employees on breaks
Employees who are injured during lunch breaks, snack breaks or other non-working periods may have an unpleasant surprise in store for them when they seek benefits. Worker comp lawyers in Crystal Lake know that Illinois law does not automatically guarantee coverage in such cases. Workers should be aware of the complicated rules surrounding lunch break injuries.
When is an injury covered by workers’ compensation?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 155,600 Illinois employees suffered job-related injuries during 2013. For an injury to count as job-related, it must normally fulfill all of the following criteria:
- The injury must take place in a zone of employment.
- The injury must be directly linked with working duties.
- The injury must not happen during commuting hours or other unpaid hours.
Many lunch break injuries do not comply with these criteria and are therefore uncompensated.
Some meal break injuries qualify for compensation
In some cases, a worker injured during a meal break may be eligible for compensation. If the employee is in an on-site cafeteria or dining hall, the injury is considered to have taken place in a zone of employment. Employees who leave the office or the workplace for lunch may also receive compensation if they are running a work-related errand during their lunch break, as worker comp lawyers in Crystal Lake are aware.
Work-related injury during a meal break: a case study
Margaret is an office manager in a small company. Margaret’s boss John asks her to pick up a slice of pizza and a soda for him while she is on her own lunch break. While crossing the street to pick up her boss’s lunch, Margaret misjudges the height of a curb, falls down and suffers a head injury. According to Illinois law, she is eligible for workers’ compensation even though the injury occurred outside the workplace during an unpaid break, because she was performing a service for her boss at the time.
Disabled workers in Illinois have options. People who have been hurt during a meal break should consider calling worker comp lawyers in Crystal Lake.