Injured during a break period: work accident or not? 

Understanding the Law

On a beautiful July summer afternoon in 2000, a man was playing hacky sack with his colleagues during his break. Like almost every other day, he was playing on the front lawn of the commercial laundry facility where he works. But this time, he suffered an injury. Verdict: a sprained ankle. 

A work-related accident 

The man was put on forced medical leave for two days before resuming his job. His employer then contested that it was a work accident. 

Here are the details of the case and the facts that explain the reasoning of the court, who sided with the worker. 

When workers are injured while performing work-related tasks, the connection between the injury and work is difficult to dispute. However, the law also states that a work accident can occur “in the course of […] work”. 

In these cases, the connection with work can sometimes be more difficult to prove. Several elements can be analyzed. For example, whether the recreational activity is beneficial to the employer could have an impact on the analysis, even if there is no direct link to work. 

In the case of the laundry facility, the judge wrote that practicing an activity during breaks allows employees to relax and warm up their muscles, which is beneficial to the employer. 

Several elements to analyze 

In his decision, the judge specified that the connection to work can be close or not, as long as it is present. He also noted that conflicting decisions exist about recreational activities and that other elements can help clarify the nature of each accident. 

The place where the accident happened is one of these elements. In the case that interests us, the accident occurred on the workplace’s lawn, which is part of the employer’s property. 

The time the accident occurred can also be considered. In the laundry facility’s case, the events occurred during the employees’ afternoon break. The fact that employees were paid during their break also reinforces the connection to work. 

Finally, the employer’s stance regarding the activity is also taken into account. Here, hacky sack was played openly and the employer never banned the game. 

Did you know?

In Quebec, you are entitled to compensation from the CNESST if the accident you suffered meets certain criteria.

There are two types of compensation: compensation for permanent injuries and income replacement indemnity for the time off work in the case of non-permanent injuries.