The Personal Comfort Doctrine

By: Sandra Weigel Kokal

The Workers’ Compensation Act states that an injury must occur in the course of employment and be causally related to the job for the injured worker to receive benefits. An injured worker must show they were engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business when injured. In other words, the worker must be on the job when the injury occurred.

However, an injury can be considered on the job, where the injury occurred during an innocent departure from work within regular working hours. This is what is known as the personal comfort doctrine. The Court has defined this doctrine as follows:

Course of employment embraces intervals of leisure within regular working hours and momentary departures from work do not remove an employee from the course of employment. Breaks which allow an employee to administer to his/her personal comfort better enable the employee to perform the job and are considered to be in the furtherance of employer’s business.

If an employee does not stray from the course of employment for a momentary departure to attend to some “personal comfort” such as using the restroom, etc., the injury is covered.

A recent Pennsylvania case upheld this doctrine where an employee was injured while meeting her mother in another area at work to obtain feminine hygiene products she had forgotten at home. The Court held this was a temporary departure from work to attend to her personal needs so she could continue her shift at work. Workers’ compensation benefits were granted in this case. This is just one example of the personal comfort doctrine; there are many others. If you were injured while attending to a personal comfort you may be entitled to benefits, it is always important to speak with an attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case.



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