A recent decision from the Eighth District Court of Appeals again emphasizes that merely because an employee is at work and suffers an injury or illness does not necessarily mean that he or she has a valid workers’ compensation claim. In the case of Rolsen v. Walgreen Co., 2016-Ohio-8304, 8th Dist. (December 22, 2016), the plaintiff received a pneumonia vaccination while he was on duty as a manager at a Walgreens store. Walgreens offered the vaccinations to the public and also to its employees. The plaintiff was not required or ordered by his employer to get the vaccination. After he received the injection, he experienced an adverse reaction and developed a serious infection. He filed a workers’ compensation claim for his injury; however, his claim was denied. He then appealed the claim into the local court of common pleas, where the action was dismissed.
The Eighth District Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal, noting that the plaintiff’s decision to receive the vaccination was a purely personal one and was not mandated by the terms of his employment. The Court noted that there was no injury sustained in the performance of his job duties or act done directly or indirectly in the service of the employer. The Court emphasized that the vaccination was received voluntarily and there was no obligation owed to the employer to obtain the vaccination. While the employer did receive a benefit from its employee receiving the vaccination and the employee was being paid while obtaining the vaccination, the Court found there was not a sufficient causal relationship to employment to warrant a finding of a compensable workers’ compensation claim.
This case offers interesting insight into when an employee’s injuries at work constitute a valid claim. When the actions that led to the injury can be characterized as personal and outside the scope of employment, there may not be a sufficient causal connection to support the claim. The fact that the vaccinations were offered to the public would also seem to support the conclusion that the activity was not work related. This case would have likely had a different outcome if the employer had mandated that all employees receive the vaccination or had only offered them to its employees.