Scope of Employee’s Duties – Workplace Assault

In Stanfield v. Maru, The court was tasked with determining whether the ALJ erred in finding that Claimant sustained a compensable injury while engaging in a non-traditional work duty.

Claimant worked as a sushi chef at a restaurant.  On July 4, 2019, a former employee came into the restaurant visibly intoxicated.  Claimant told the former employee to leave.  When he would not leave, the Claimant then tried to remove the former employee from the restaurant.  The former employee struck the Claimant, breaking the Claimant’s jaw.  Claimant required jaw surgery which resulted in his mouth being wired shut. The employer-respondent (“Respondent”) then fired the Claimant.  The employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance at the time of Claimant’s injury. 

The issue before the Court was whether Claimant acted within his scope of employment by removing the former employee.  If Claimant had been acting within the scope of his employment, then the jaw injury may be compensable.  Respondent asserted that Claimant’s actions did not fall under Claimant’s job duties.  Respondent further claimed that the assault by the former employee arose out of a private dispute.  However, the ALJ did not agree with either of the Respondent’s arguments and found the injury to be compensable. 

On appeal, Panel cited Popovich v. Irlando, which explained that workplace assaults that have an inherent connection with employment, or those assaults that are neutral, will be found to have arisen out of employment for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage. On the other hand, assaults that are inherently private do not qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. The ALJ found that although removing an unruly patron is not a “traditional job duty” it still may be compensable in this case.  The Panel explained that in determining whether a claim is compensable, there is no requirement to establish that the activity causing injury was either a strictly enumerated duty or an obligation of employment. The ALJ found that if the injury is reasonably incidental to the conditions and circumstances, then it may be found compensable.  The Panel affirmed the ALJ’s determination that Claimant’s injury was compensable.

Additionally, in Stanfield, Respondent contended that there was no evidence presented at hearing that would support an award for temporary disability benefits.  Respondent claimed that Claimant was able to return to work no more than three days following the injury. The Panel found that the ALJ’s order was insufficient to permit appellate review on this issue.  The ALJ made no findings on whether the broken jaw and jaw surgery prevented Claimant from returning to his job duties. The Panel was unable to ascertain the basis of the ALJ’s award of temporary disability benefits.  For those reasons, the matter regarding whether to award temporary disability benefits was remanded to the ALJ for further findings.

Robert Stanfield v. Maru LLC, W.C. No. 5-112-091-001 (ICAO, June 10, 2020) 

Would you like to know more? Contact Karina Prigge at kprigge@pollartmiller.com or 877-259-5693.

From the June 2020 Newsletter

2020-07-02T08:56:21+00:00