Generally, employers are liable through workers' compensation for any personal injury of an employee during the course of employment. Workers' compensation is a process in place of a judicial personal injury claim against the employer. Its purpose is to provide compensation for disability or death that may result from an occupational injury.
Is Food Poisoning from an Employers' Cafeteria Covered By Workers' Compensation?
In workers' compensation matters, the primary issue is usually the same: whether the injury occured during the course of employment. However, when an employee suffers food poisoning after eating at the employers' cafeteria, courts have weighed many considerations when determining whether the employee may recover through workers' compensation. These factors include:
Whether the Employer Has Supplied the Food or Drink to the Employees:
In cases where the food causing the injury was supplied by the employer as part of the employee's wages, it has normally been held that the injury arose out of and in the course of employment. Also, where a certain amount was deducted from employees' wages for food during employment, courts have held that any injury from that food was dealt through workers' compensation.
Whether the Employer's Cafeteria or Other Service Was Strictly for Employees:
Where the employer directly sold food to its employees through a cafeteria or other service strictly for the use of employees, it has been held that any injury or illness suffered by an employee as a result of eating food or drink arises during the course of employment. So in this scenario, workers' compensation is a valid remedy to resolving these issues.
However, when the employer's restaurant served the general public, injury to the employee caused by such food was not a workers' compensation case because the employee was not required to eat in that restaurant.
Whether the Employee Was on an Official "Food Break:"
Where the employee purchased food or drink from the company during an official rest break, the injury from the food has been held to have arisen out of employment. However, when an employee was not given meals as a condition of employment, nor was given any type of specific time off for meals, an injury suffered while eating a meal purchased from an independent source has been determined not to be within the course of employment.
Will an Attorney Assist Me with a Personal Injury/Workers' Compensation Case?
If you suffered an injury caused by food or drink purchased at your company, you should speak with an experienced attorney immediately. Depending on the factors above, you may need to speak with either a workers' compensation attorney or a personal injury lawyer. Either way, your attorney will protect your interests and help you reach a fair and equitable resolution.