No benefits for lunch rescuer

Saw colleague stabbed

A Pennsylvania supreme court has come strictly on board with Canada's federal court: if you’re going to get injured during the workday, don’t do it during lunch. Otherwise, you might get frozen out of disability benefits.

Last December, you read here of McTague v. Canada, in which Ronald McTague got hit by a car while coming back to work from a meal break. The Federal Court refused to allow him disability benefits under the Pensions Act because there was insufficient connection between his work duties and the injury sustained.

The U.S. case reflects the even more conservative nature of U.S. employment law in general. Shirley Fitzsimmons, a stock clerk at a K-Mart in Mount Pocono, Pa., was having lunch with her work colleague, Angela Walker, at K-Mart’s in-house restaurant. Both women had clocked off for the meal break.

Walker’s husband came into the restaurant and stabbed Walker. Fitzsimmons helped disarm the husband and administered CPR to Walker, but the workers’ compensation board refused to award her benefits for her subsequent post-traumatic stress.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld that decision, ruling that the events did not occur in the course of Fizsimmons’s employment. She didn’t have to be at the workplace, the court has said, so she could not claim

that she was assisting K-Mart by helping Walker or that she was in any way performing a work-related duty.

The court feared what lawyers call “the slippery slope”: allowing Fitzsimmons’s claim “would expand the application of the act to cover situations involving an employee who is injured as a result of either seeing an off-duty employee injured or tending to that off-duty employee’s injuries, regardless of the time, place or circumstance of the co-worker’s mishap.”

The court admitted that while going for lunch did not amount to a break in employment, it remained “wholly foreign” to one’s employment.

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