The Appellate Division recently examined two different scenarios in which a worker was injured while performing tasks that were not part of their job duties and came up with two different results.

In the first case, a worker was required to forward her work calls to her cell phone while she was out of the office. She was involved in an automobile accident while she was taking a break to buy a soda. Because she was required to have her calls forwarded, she reasoned that she could apply the “continuous employment doctrine.” The Appellate Division found that despite the forwarding of the calls, the trip was more than a mere “slight deviation” from employment and therefore the claimant was not injured in the course and scope of her employment.

In the second case, the employee was injured when she returned to a break room to retrieve cigarettes she had left behind. The Appellate Division found this to be a compensable injury because the employee was only making a slight deviation from her employment duties. They wrote that for an incident to constitute a break in employment, it must be of a pronounced character. This trip, they reasoned was merely a brief interval.

It seems that freedom of action was an important factor in both cases. In the first, the employee was free to leave the employer’s premises to get a soda. In the second, the employee was required to stay on the premises for her break.