Court Considers Whether Employee Injured on Lunch Break Is Entitled to Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In a recent case before a Georgia appellate court, the court considered whether an employee who was injured while leaving for a lunch break was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. According to the court’s opinion, the employee was working as a seamstress. One day, the employee took a lunch break and as she was walking out to her car, she tripped on the sidewalk and was injured. She sought workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

A judge decided that she was entitled to benefits under the “ingress and egress rule” and because she was on a scheduled lunch break. The employer appealed, and the State Board of Workers’ Compensation reversed the decision, finding the employee was not entitled to benefits because the injury occurred while she was on a scheduled break. The employee appealed, and after an affirmance from the superior court, the employee appealed again to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Injuries Covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act

To be entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act, a worker’s injury must arise “out of and in the course of employment.” This means generally that injuries must occur at work and while performing the duties of the job. Georgia courts have created exceptions to this general rule, including the ingress and egress rule and a scheduled-break exception. The ingress and egress rule allows claimants to recover benefits if an employee is injured while going to or coming from work, as long as the employee is still on the employer’s premises. The scheduled break exception allows claimants to recover benefits if an employee is injured during a regularly scheduled break.

The Court’s Decision

The court explained that some courts had previously held that an employee’s injury was compensable if the employee was injured while leaving the premises if the employee was on a regularly scheduled break. However, a more recent case held that the ingress and egress rule does not apply to cases in which an employee was injured while leaving or returning during a regularly scheduled lunch break. Therefore, the appeals court decided that the employee’s injury was not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, because she was injured while leaving work during her break.

Notably, one judge on the appellate panel dissented from the court’s decision, stating that the employee should receive compensation. He reasoned that an employee leaving for a work break should be entitled to the same coverage as an employee leaving at the end of the workday. However, the majority held the employee was not entitled to benefits, and that decision will stand unless that decision is overturned on appeal.

Contact an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured at work or even on your way to or from work, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C. carefully analyze our clients’ claims to determine whether they are entitled to benefits and what can be done. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys have over 90 years of combined experience and fight for the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia. Call us toll-free at 866-328-4978 or through our website to set up a free consultation.

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