Normally when a sordid story crosses the Cluttered Desk, especially one that is work related as part of its foundation, I do not hesitate to wade in and opine about the facts of the saga. Rarely one to be concerned with potential offense, I delve in and harangue away to my heart's content. Yet once in a while a story arises (although in this case “arises” will turn out to be a poorly chosen word) that gives me literary pause; I am just not sure with how I should proceed with it.
There is no easing in towards the shocking detail. Similar to the removal of a bandage, I best be quick and to the point. You've been warned.
Workers in a Bronx, New York hospital this week found a fellow employee dead, naked and in front of a laptop that was playing pornography. The 48 year old man apparently succumbed to a heart attack while masturbating. Clearly, despite outward appearances, this was a situation where he did not have everything well in hand.
I've heard of having to pry guns from someone's cold, dead fingers, but this is ridiculous.
There is little to be known about the specifics of the case, but as you may already realize, I rarely need any stinkin' specifics to make my case. While I have many, many questions about this unfortunate incident, the one that is first and foremost in my mind is, “Would this be a compensable event?”
We know that the man was an employee of the hospital. We do not know if he would have been considered in any way a “First Responder”. In many jurisdictions a heart attack for any reason is automatically qualified as a workers' compensation claim if a person is a first responder. For just plain old follow up responders or even janitorial based non-responders, I am not so sure where this workplace erection related death would stand (so to speak). We can assume, or at least hope beyond all hope, that he was on a break of some sort when this occurred. If he was actively on duty that might make a difference, although if his job was something like pushing the juice cart it could have been extremely awkward for those he was serving.
Assuming he was on break, his family might not have a valid claim, unless he had just completed a strenuous task. A strenuous task related to work, that is. Get your mind out of the gutter. In New York, if an individual had to perform heavy lifting, a heart attack in close enough proximity to the lifting function has been found to be compensable. I will leave it to you to define what “heavy lifting” might actually entail.
Now, as an added twist, if he was on a lunch break, but was subject to employer restrictions such as not being allowed to leave the premises during his shift, it may be a compensable event under the ironically named Going and Coming Rule.
It certainly appears the poor bastard may have done both, just not in that order.
Hey, you were warned. You have no one to blame but yourself.
Whatever the determination regarding this particular incident, one thing is certain. None of us hopes to be found this way at the end of our time on this earth. At least the poor bugger didn't die on the toilet.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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