In a recent California appeals court ruling, an employee won damages in addition to compensation for medical expenses under the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The exclusivity rule is a lesser-known rule that allows for extra compensation when it’s deemed that the worker was performing beyond their typical role.
In this case, West Kern Water District held a mock robbery that left an employee with fear, depression, nightmares, headaches, loss of appetite and nausea. She pursed psychological treatment and used all of her sick time following the event, prior to seeking workers’ compensation assistance for the turmoil it caused her. After deliberation, a jury awarded her $360,000 in damages. A typical workers’ compensation award covers medical expenses and time off from work but no extra payment for pain and suffering.
The exclusivity rule
Damages were possible under the exclusivity rule, which states that when an injury happens in the course of employment, but outside the typical range of job duties, it may be eligible for damages in addition to a typical workers’ compensation award.
The legal precedent is that the defendant’s job role was to collect payment on water bills, not to be subjected to traumatic events such as a mock robbery, which was portrayed by management as a real event in real time.
Workers’ compensation principles
Certain fields of employment are more likely to face certain injuries — for example, physical laborers are more likely to sustain broken bones and drivers are more vulnerable to auto accidents — but all workers are protected under workers’ compensation rules and deserve coverage for what happens on the job. This is universal, whether it is part of your specific job description or if the injury comes after an unusual event that takes place at work.
Anyone injured on the job should seek workers’ compensation assistance to make sure that you receive the recovery and compensation you deserve for work-related harm.