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Are injuries during a lunch break covered under workers’ comp?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2023 | Workers Rights

Workers’ compensation benefits are supposed to be there for you when you’re injured on the job – but there are a lot of different rules that can trip you up.

Understanding when an injury is and isn’t covered can be hard for the average worker, and there are – without a doubt – some gray areas. In California, injuries sustained on lunch breaks are usually not compensable, since they typically occur when an employee is off duty. However, like most rules, there are some exceptions.

When could an injury be covered?

As always, every situation is unique, but here are some examples of times when an injury at lunch might be compensable:

  • You were just grabbing a quick snack: If you were injured, for example, while getting something out of the vending machine at work for a snack on a rest break, that’s different from being at lunch. Case law indicates that “acts of the employee for [their] personal comfort and convenience while at work” are not interruptions in the employment continuity.
  • You were on a business lunch: Similar to the way that an employee is considered “on the clock” during a business trip even when they have “down” time, an employee is still working when they’re holding a business meeting during a meal.
  • You were on call the entire time: Some employees don’t actually clock out for their meal breaks because they need to be reachable either through their phone, a pager or a walkie-talkie. If that was your situation when you were injured, you may have a valid claim.
  • You were injured by another employee: If you were minding your own business in the company break room but another employee injured you by accidentally knocking a shelf over on you, that could still be your employer’s responsibility.

The key takeaway from all this information is that there are many different situations wherein an injury during a break may still be covered under workers’ compensation. You cannot rely on your employer to understand the nuances of the law, which is why it’s generally a very good idea to seek experienced guidance before pursuing a claim.