Court Rules that Correctional Officer's Off-Duty Injury Was Job-Related
By Steve Scardino, Esq.
California's 3rd District Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a corrections officer who injured himself while doing calisthenics at home, stating that this warm-up exercise regimen was within the course of his employment when he got hurt.
In this case (Young v. WCAB), Daniel Young, a Butte County corrections sergeant, exercised at home because he was required by departmental order to keep in shape in order to handle the physical demands of his job, including running, lifting and climbing during efforts to catch or subdue hostile individuals. Despite this requirement, the department did not provide officers with an opportunity to exercise or participate in a fitness regime during work hours. Therefore, Young contended that his off-duty injury was work-related. And, the Workers' Compensation Administrative Law Judge agreed, citing Labor Code Section 3600(a)(9).
Regarding an employee's voluntary participation in an off-duty recreational, social or athletic activity, this labor code comes into play when these activities "are a reasonable expectancy of, or are expressly implied, required by, the employment."
The County appealed the decision to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, and won the appeal, when the Board disagreed with the Judge. The Board concluded that although there were fitness requirements for officers imposed by the county, it was not enough to support extending workers' compensation coverage to voluntary off-duty recreational or athletic activities.
Young then successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals who overturned the Board's ruling and sided with him, finding that a departmental order requiring correctional officers to "maintain themselves in a good physical condition so that they can handle the strenuous physical contacts often required of a law enforcement officer" was sufficient to trigger Labor Code Section 3600(a)(9).