Daniel Young v Workers Compensation Appeals Board and County of Butte (2014) H&FLR 2014-37
Court of Appeal of California (Third Appellate District)
25 June 2014
Coram: Nicholson APJ, Hull and Butz JJ.
Appearing for the Plaintiff: Craig E. Johnsen (of Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick & Johnsen)
Appearing for the First Respondent (Board): No appearance
Appearing for the Second Respondent (County): Mr Richard A Weyuker and Ms Lauren E. Sible (of Cuneo, Black, Ward & Missler)
Catchwords: California – workers compensation – corrections officer – exercise outside work hours – jumping jacks – work requirement – expectancy
Facts: The plaintiff, aged 64 years, was employed as a Correctional Sergeant by the Butte County Sheriff’s Department. The Department required its employees to maintain themselves in good physical condition so to be able to sustain the “strenuous physical contacts” of the role. However, it did not provide an opportunity to exercise during working hours. It also did not provide guidance as to the exercises or activities required to maintain the necessary level of fitness. The plaintiff therefore maintained a personal fitness regimen in his own time. While doing “jumping jacks” as part of this regimen on 9 January 2012 he sustained a left knee injury (injury).
The plaintiff claimed workers compensation for the injury and a Workers Compensation Judge found the injury to be compensable under §3600(a)(9) of the Californian Labor Code. That section provides that workers compensation benefits are not payable for an injury arising out of
voluntary participation in any off-duty recreational, social or athletic activity not constituting part of the employee’s work-related duties, except where these activities are a reasonable expectancy of, or are expressly or impliedly required by, the employment.
The Workers Compensation Appeals Board (Board) disagreed and annulled the decision: Young v County of Butte (Workers’ Comp. App. Bd, 20 September 2013, unreported). The plaintiff sought review of the decision.
Held: Annulling the Board’s decision, that –
1. There is a reasonable expectancy of activity in connection with employment if an employee subjectively believes their participation in the activity is expected by the employer and this belief is objectively reasonable. The worker’s subjective belief is a question of fact and its objective reasonableness a question of law.
Ezzy v Workers Compensation Appeals Board (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 252 and City of Stockton v Workers Compensation Appeals Board (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1513, followed.
2. To find a belief objectively reasonable, there must be a substantial nexus between the employer’s requirements and the specific off-duty activity in which the worker was engaged when injured. In this case, the failure of the department to provide guidance as to exercises or an opportunity to exercise at work meant it was objectively reasonable for the plaintiff to believe the department expected him to exercise while off duty. It would be completely unrealistic to find that jumping jacks – being a common part of warm-up exercises – were not expected of middle aged correctional sergeants who were required to maintain good physical condition.
City of Stockton v Workers Compensation Appeals Board (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1513 and Wilson v Workers Compensation Appeals Board (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 902, followed.
The Court’s judgment is available here.