On May 20th, 2021, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board for the State of California (Sacramento District Office) issued a decision in the workers’ compensation claim of Alex v. All Nation Security Services, Inc.. In ruling in favor of an employee, the WCAB relied on previous case law on injuries that occur during so-called ‘unauthorized’ activities. In this blog post, our Fresno, CA workers’ compensation defense lawyers provide an overview of the decision and highlight a key lesson for employers and claims administrators.

The Background and Facts

The applicant in this case (Mr. Alex) was employed as a security guard for All Nation Security Services, Inc. He suffered a serious head injury after a fall. Notably, his fall occurred due to an incident that was initially on the employer’s premises, during the normal workday. However, the injury technically happened “off” of the premises. Mr. Alex was chasing down a disruptive person.

According to workplace policies of All Nation Security Services, Inc., its security guards are instructed not to follow alleged criminals or other disruptive people off the premises. The California employer eventually denied the workers’ compensation claim filed by Mr. Alex on the grounds that he was injured while engaged in an unauthorized activity. 

The Decision

After assessing the case, the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) ruled in favor of the employee. On review, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) has affirmed that decision. The Board specifically pointed to a long-standing legal precedent in California that states that just because an employee’s injury was sustained “an unauthorized manner or in violation of instructions or rules of his employer” does not automatically render their harm outside of the course and scope of their employment.

The Lesson for Employers

In California, companies and non-for-profit organizations must provide no-fault workers’ compensation coverage to their staff members. Workers’ compensation insurance applies to injuries that occur within the course and scope of employment. That the accident technically happened while the employee was completing a task in some sort of unauthorized manner is not, by itself, sufficient grounds to deny a workers’ compensation claim. While there are some forms of employee misconduct that could justify the denial of workers’ compensation benefits, it is a limited defense for employers. Failure to follow instructions or otherwise acting in an unauthorized manner is not sufficient to meet that type of high bar set forth under California state law.

Call Our Fresno, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyers for Immediate Help

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys strive to serve every client with the highest level of professional representation. If you have any questions or concerns about workers’ compensation defense and unauthorized employee activities, we are here to help. Contact us today for a strictly confidential review and assessment of your case. From our office locations in Fresno, Sacramento, and Bakersfield, we provide legal services throughout Central California.