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North Carolina court gives injured worker a break

In some cases, employers do the right thing after an employee is injured by providing adequate workers' compensation benefits. At the same time, some employers try to find ways out of providing necessary financial support to employees injured in a workplace accident. A recent court decision in North Carolina helped define what it means to be on the job.

Prior to the recent decision, a North Carolina customer service employee was denied workers' compensation after aggravating an injury while she was on break. Her employer argued that she was on break, so the injury didn't occur during the normal course of her employment. The appeals court disagreed.

The employee was finishing her company-mandated lunch break as she slipped on an ice cube that fell out of an ice machine on the way back to her desk. As a result of the slip-and-fall injury, the woman re-injured a surgically repaired knee. The court ruled that the employer was responsible for maintaining the safety of the premises and failed to do so.

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of the North Carolina court's ruling is that it declared lunch breaks -- paid or unpaid -- to be part of the normal course of employment. This means that if someone is injured during their lunch break, they are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The hope is that this will better protect employees, since the definition of what it means to be on the job has become clearer.

This woman's case demonstrates that employers don't always get it right when it comes to disbursing workers' compensation benefits. As such, it's important to make sure that claims are handled appropriately from the time they are filed to the time an employer makes a ruling. By being persistent and vigilant, the injured woman will receive the financial support she needs in light of her workplace injury.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Comp allowed for representative's fall during unpaid lunch break," Feb. 11, 2013

  • Our firm has helped injured employees work through the complexities of North Carolina's workers' compensation laws. To learn more, please visit our Greensboro workplace injury page.

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