Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mitigating the Unthinkable: Workers’ Compensation Laws Following Jobsite Assault

I work in a retail store that was recently robbed. If I had sustained an injury, could I collect workers’ compensation benefits?

Certain industries are, unfortunately, more prone than others to break-ins, burglaries, and armed robberies. Some of the most high-risk jobs include those at stand-alone establishments known to store large amounts of cash, including check-cashing stores, gas stations, banks, and convenience markets. When the unthinkable occurs, and an employee is seriously injured during a workplace assault, can he or she collect workers’ compensation benefits? Thankfully, in a reversal of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Board’s answer in the negative, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court unanimously held that a workplace assault victim is unequivocally entitled to workers’ compensation support while recovering from an egregious attack.

In the aforementioned case, the victim was forced at gunpoint to unlock the safe at her place of employment – a check-cashing store – and was hog-tied before the assailant fled with copious amounts of cash. Unbelievably, upon applying for workers’ compensation based on physical injury and mental distress, the Workers' Compensation Board not only found that her physical injuries were not severe enough, but that her robbery experience was not an “abnormal” workplace incident that would qualify for compensation.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court decided in a 7-0 decision that, while check-cashing establishments are prone to robbery, the precise details of the victim’s experience are not considered within the scope of a “normal” robbery, even given the fact that the establishment trained employees as to how to best handle break-ins and burglaries. Here, the court pointed out that the employee was ambushed immediately upon leaving her car by the assailant, who was hiding in the dumpster. Keeping a gun to her head the entire time, he guided her throughout the store and made her empty the safes – all the while threatening to kill her family if she did not comply. In the words of the court, “[a]lthough it is generally expected that a check-cashing business might be the target of theft, it is unusual for an employee to be hog-tied and have her husband threatened with death in the event of a robbery…”

If you are facing a difficulties regarding a workers’ compensation claim, please do not hesitate to contact one of our highly skilled attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates, serving clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks County. We can be reached locally at 610.239.7600 or toll free at 888.818.4343.

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