“Course and Scope of Employment: Cupid’s Revenge! Delaware Workers’ Compensation Benefits” was originally published in The County Women's Journal on January 1, 2014
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and love is in the air! Cupid, that cherubic little archer is said by the ancient Greeks to be the God of Love. Cupid’s modus operandi is to sneak up on unsuspecting people and shoot them with his tiny bow and golden arrows. Although the process sounds similar to an assault, those people who are struck with his golden arrows are said to fall madly and deeply in love, forever and ever, with the next person they see.
At times, one has to wonder about all the hazards created by true love and this little mischievous winged child. After all, I barely trust my little boy with a light-up sword on Halloween, much less a bow and arrow! Some of Cupid’s matches have turned out to be love stories for the ages, while others…well, let’s just say, they have fallen short of their mark. One such story that many people have been buzzing about recently involves a government employee from Australia that was injured during some time “between the sheets.”
In the Australian lovergirl case, the female employee was observing a budget review at an office that was some distance away from her usual office. Due to the distance, she stayed overnight in a hotel room paid for by her employer, the Aussie government. Cupid must have hit his target with this lovergirl because later that evening she was in bed, doing the horizontal mambo with loverboy when part of a light fixture crashed down on her face, injuring her nose and mouth (as well as her pride, I would imagine).
Lovergirl filed a claim with the Aussie government’s workers’ compensation carrier, and sought payment for her injured face. Originally, she was granted benefits, but that was short-lived and was overturned by their federal court. So, why did her claim get overturned? Under Aussie law, a worker must be induced by their employer to perform a particular activity which brings about their injury. Here in Delaware, there is an entire section of workers’ compensation law devoted to this same type of situation (no, not the horizontal mambo part) called “course and scope.” What it means is that you must be engaged in an activity in furtherance of your employer, or which is intended to benefit your employer at the time of your injury in order to qualify for benefits.
Normally, as long as you are on your employer’s premises, and performing your job duties when you become injured, you will qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. There are, however, situations when this rule has become broadened so as to afford additional protection to injured workers. For instance, an employee who is assaulted by a co-worker in the parking lot while leaving their job may qualify for benefits, especially if they did not encourage the fight, and the disagreement originated in the workplace. Another example of an exception to the general rule is a case where a worker was injured while loading food that she cooked for an office party into her car. She was scheduled to work at 8 am and was loading the food into her car after that time. She was found to be the equivalent of working from home, as she loaded her car full of food to bring to her office.
Those two examples are just some of the ways that the general rule on “course and scope” of employment have been broadened to afford benefits to an injured worker. If you were injured while performing an activity that was not in your job description but would have benefited your employer, you may also qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. A consultation with a lawyer who specializes in this area will be able to give you insight as to whether your particular claim for benefits is valid. All of the lawyers in my firm, including myself, offer consultations for work injuries. The consultations are free, and the insight into your claim could be invaluable to your future health and benefits.