The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled that a claimant was entitled to benefits, despite fact that he was injured while violating a positive work order prohibiting horseplay. In Sysco Food Services of Philadelphia v. W.C.A.B. (Sebastiano), the facts indicated that the claimant was employed as an order selector. On the date of injury he was retrieving some shrink wrap. when he was grabbed from behind by a co-worker who shouted â€œLet’s get him.â€ Anothe co-worker grabbed the claimant from the front, hugging his arms so he could not move, and attempted to trip him. This individual pulled claimant across the floor. Claimant asked him to stop. At that time, someone came by on a pallet jack, beeped the horn at them, and told them to get out of the way. Claimant asserted that he was let go and as he was turning around to walk away he felt someone collide into him. As he fell to the ground, he looked up and a co-worker was on top of him. He heard a loud crack as he was falling. Claimant was taken to the hospital. Claimant acknowledged that horseplay was prohibited by his employer and that it is a punishable offense. Claimant’s contentionwas that he was not a participant in the horseplay, but rather a victim of it.
The claimant, Sebastiano, filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. In reponse, the employer raised the affirmative defense that claimant’s actions violated a positive work order and, therefore, his injuries were sustained outside the course and scope of his employment. To properly sustain this defense, the employer must prove: (1) that the injury was in fact caused by the violation of the work rule, (2) that the employee actually knew of the order or rule, and (3) that the rule implicated an activity not connected with the employee’s work duties.
The Commonwealth Court ruled that the claimant was entitled to benefits and granted claimant’s petition. The Court reasoned that, despite fact that the claimant was injured while violating a positive work order prohibiting horseplay, claimant was the victim of horseplay and was not an active participant in it. As the claimant did not choose to engage in the horseplay, it could not be said that he violated the rules of his employer. Further, the Court noted other factors supporting a compensable claim including the fact that the claimant was in an area he was required to be at the time he sustained his injuries, the incident in question was mere horseplay, and that there was joking around with no intent to harm or injure.
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Thomas P. Cummings, Esq.
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Moosic, PA 18507