What Do You Think: Was Paycheck Spat Within Course, Scope of Employment?

02 Nov, 2020 Frank Ferreri


Las Vegas, NV (WorkersCompensation.com) – Arguing over the amount of your paycheck probably isn’t in most people’s job descriptions, but can it be within the course and scope of an employee’s employment?

That question was before a Nevada court recently when a worker’s dismay over how much he was paid got him into a fight and thrown from a roof.

While working on a residential housing development site, a roofer received his paycheck from the previous week. Becoming upset over the check’s amount, he sought out the crew leader for whom he had worked that week.

The crew leader was on the roof of a house, so the roofer climbed up to confront the crew leader about the amount. The crew leader’s son, who was also working on the project, became upset over the confrontation, climbed up the roof, and pushed the roofer off.

The roofer experienced injuries from his fall and submitted a workers’ compensation claim to the company. The company denied the claim, stating that the injury didn’t arise in the course and scope of the roofer’s employment.

The roofer took his case to the Nevada Department of Administrative Hearings Division, which reversed the denial. In turn, the company appealed to the department’s appeals division.

Before the appeals officer, a safety manager testified that he instructed the roofer to speak with the management office at the end of the day to correct the paycheck. The roofer responded that he had not spoken with a safety manager on the day in question and believed that he had to take up the issue with the crew leader.

The appeals officer agreed with the lower ruling that the injury was compensable. According to the appeals officer, the roofer experienced the injury in the course and scope of his employment. The company sought review in court.

As in other states, in Nevada, for an injury to be compensable under workers’ compensation law, an injured employee must show that the injury “arose out of and in the course of” employment. This requires an employee to establish that the injury was related to some risk involved with the work.

Was climbing the roof to dispute the paycheck in the course and scope of the roofer’s employment?

A.     Yes. The roofer thought he had to talk to the crew leader to get the paycheck confusion resolved, so the injury arose out of and occurred in the course of the roofer’s employment.

B.     No. Neither the roofer nor the crew leader had authority over the paycheck dispute, and the roofer wasn’t following the company’s instructions when the injury happened.

If you picked A, you were in line with the court in Focus Framing v. Perez, No. 79856-COA (Nev. Ct. App. 10/21/20), which upheld the two lower decisions in the roofer’s favor.

The court explained that “substantial evidence” supported the argument that the roofer “reasonably believed” that he needed to speak to the crew leader about the paycheck. As a result, the injury arose out of the roofer’s employment because it occurred in the course of a paycheck dispute that was “fairly traceable to the nature of the employment.”

The court rejected the company’s argument that the roofer left his job duties at the time of the injury.

“There is no requirement that the employee actually be capable of performing job duties or be actively engaged in those job duties at the time of the injury for it to occur in the course of employment,” the court wrote. “[The company] makes no argument and cites to no authority that [the roofer] must have been engaged in other job duties at the time he was injured to justify compensation.”

This feature does not provide legal advice

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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