Henderson v. WP Ventures, Inc. (Workers Comp. Appeal Bd.)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court heard the claimant’s petition for review after a Workers’ Compensation Judge found that the petitioner was “in the course of his employment” when he was injured. The claimant slipped on ice as he was about to take a cigarette break, calling into question the “personal comfort” rule. The WCJ held that he “was taking a cigarette break when he slipped and fell on the walkway outside of the building in which he was working, and this was a minor deviation from employment that fell under the personal comfort doctrine.” But the WCAB found that he “had been away from his work premises attending to personal needs (a cigarette and a sandwich) and not directly furthering the employer’s business. Therefore, he was no longer in the course of employment when he was injured.” The Commonwealth Court reversed the WCAB. The Court analyzed the “personal comfort” rule, which “embraces intervals of leisure within regular hours of the working day” and recognizes that “momentary departures from the work routine do not remove an employee from the course of his employment. Breaks which allow the employee to administer to his personal comfort better enable him to perform his job and are therefore considered to be in furtherance of the employer’s business.” Here, the Court held that the rule applied and that the claimant was entitled to workers’ comp. benefits.

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