What Is Dual Purpose Doctrine?
In terms of compensability, there is the “dual-purpose doctrine.” Those cases refer to situations when an employee may be performing an act that has a mutual benefit to the employee and the employer. Those cases are usually found compensable. An example where an employer that had a large campus held a contest to determine who could walk the most miles or log the most steps. Basically, the employer wanted the employees to go outside at lunchtime, get exercise, and get fresh air. Clearly, that’s a benefit to the employee because it’s good for morale and the individual’s health. It gets him or her away from the desk for a little bit. When out logging steps for this competition a worker was attacked by a bird. She tripped, fell, and sustained her injury when she was running away from the bird. The incident was found compensable because it was an employer-sponsored health program or competition, and it had a benefit to both the employee and the employer.
The dual-purpose doctrine is similar to the personal comfort doctrine. If a worker is engaged in an act of personal comfort, and they’re injured while doing so, the injury is compensable. There’s no break in the employment just because the worker is taking care of his or her personal comforts or necessities such as getting something to drink or eat during the day, or on the way to the restroom. The health of the employee is in the interest of the employer. Since the employee’s efforts benefit the employer, an employee who is ministering to personal needs doesn’t take the injury outside of the “course and scope” of employment. A person walking to lunch in the break room that trips and breaks a leg has a compensable injury, even though they’re going to get lunch and not necessarily engaged in a particular job duty. The broken leg is a compensable injury under the personal comfort doctrine.
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