A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Employee Who Came to Work Solely to Pick up His Paycheck Was Not Covered for Comp When He Fell on Premises

By on November 30, 2015 in Compensability with 1 Comment

Robert Miller worked as customer service and bookkeeping associate at Saker Shoprite from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  On January 29, 2010, Miller came to work to pick up his paycheck at 10:00 a.m.  The store allowed employees to do direct deposit or to pick up their paychecks in person.  While he went in to get his paycheck, someone waited in the car outside. One fellow worker described Miller as wearing what appeared to be pajamas.

Miller picked up his paycheck at the courtesy desk and then cashed it.  He also bought a lottery ticket for a co-worker who was working a register in the checkout area as a cashier.  He walked over to the co-worker, handed her the lottery ticket, turned and headed toward the store exit.  As he exited, he slipped on a substance that may have been sugar or salt, falling to the floor and injuring his knee.  He was diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear.

Miller filed both a workers’ compensation claim and a parallel personal injury action in the Law Division.  The Judge of Compensation heard testimony and ruled that the accident was compensable.  The judge relied on the fact that the store allowed its employees to cash their paychecks at the store.  In the judge’s mind, this indicated that the store intended to benefit by “impulse buying” of workers who came to cash their checks in person.  The judge awarded 17.5% disability of the leg or $11,686.50.

Saker Shoprite appealed and contended that there was no legal support for a finding of compensability.  The Appellate Division reversed the Judge of Compensation, noting that petitioner was not performing any work duties at the time of his injury.  He was not dressed for work and was only there to do a personal task, namely pick up his paycheck.  In addition, the court noted that petitioner performed one other personal task in buying a lottery ticket for a co-worker.

In finding that the fall was not compensable, the court had to distinguish this case from Chen v. Federated Dep’t Stores, Inc., 199 N.J. Super. 336 (App. Div. 1985).  In that case an injury to a Federated employee was found compensable during lunch hour when the employee tripped on a clothes hanger while shopping in the store.  The Appellate Division in that case found that the lunch-break shopping was beneficial to the employer and encouraged by the employer.

In this case the court said that Miller’s injury did not occur during a lunch break but many hours before his work shift would begin.  The court also found that Miller never offered proof that Shoprite benefited from having employees pick up checks in person.  The benefits manager of the store testified that employees were generally discouraged from remaining in the store if they were not working or shopping.  The court said, “[t]here is no testimony that the store actively encouraged such conduct by check-cashing workers.  The practice was merely a gratuitous convenience provided by the employer.”

In reversing the Judge of Compensation, the Appellate Division allowed Miller to reactivate his civil suit against the store.  This case may be found at Miller v. Saker Shoprite, A-3746-13T2 (App. Div. November 13, 2015).

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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