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Arising out of the course of employment: What counts?

Injuries that ‘arise out of and in the course of’ employment are compensable – unless they are the result of some intervening cause. How about injuries that arise when an employee is undertaking something ‘outside their regular duties but which still benefits the employer – like taking a class (self-education) or writing a newsletter (cough, cough)? Are injuries that occur during such activities compensable?

In Murphy v. Mt. Sinai Hospital, 829 N.Y.S. 2d 728 (App. Div. 2007) a nurse practitioner sustained multiple injuries in a traffic accident while attending a ‘continuing eduction’ conference. Attendance at the conference was a ‘mandatory’ requirement of his position. The claimant had been encouraged to go to the conference by his supervisor. The claimant testified that his supervisor had handed him the brochure advertising the conference.

The employer denied that the injuries were a direct result of the employment – and that attendance at the conference did not ‘directly’ benefit the employer.

The WCB found that “an act outside of an employee’s regular duties which is undertaken in good faith to advance the employer’s interests is generally within the course of employment.” Therefore, any injuries arising from the act (in this case, a motor vehicle accident) were compensable.

In so ruling, the WCB looked at the factual circumstances surrounding the educational conference. The WCB was impressed by the following: (1) The employer paid remuneration for two “conference days”; (2) the employer ‘encouraged’ the employee to attend the conference; and (3) attendance was a ‘mandatory’ requirement for the position.

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