The Mutual Benefit Doctrine and Workers’ Compensation

New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws specifically describe the circumstances under which an employee is – or is not – entitled to compensation for an injury or illness they’ve suffered on the job. In addition to those statutory rules, there are also doctrines that – though not exactly law – have been accepted and established through case law and precedent over the year. The most commonly evoked of these types of doctrines the Mutual Benefit Doctrine, which provides a common sense extension of the circumstances under which employees can expect to receive benefits.

The Mutual Benefit Doctrine addresses the type of scenario that will be familiar to almost every employee: those in which an employee engages in an activity that is beneficial to them and not specifically within the scope of employment, but which still provides a “clear and substantial” benefit to the employer. Examples of this may include a situation where an employee is injured at a holiday party or golf outing where attendance is widely known to be mandatory; a situation where an employee works from home for the convenience of the employer but is asked to meet a supervisor at a mutually-agreed upon site, then is injured in a car accident on the way back to their home office from the meeting; or when an employee is injured while attending outside training that would benefit the employer, and for which the employer was providing payment. In all of these examples, both the employee and the employer received a benefit, and the employee would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Though the Mutual Benefit Doctrine is well established and has existed for a long time, all too often an employer will try to avoid their responsibility and deny workers’ compensation benefits in these types of situations. If you have been denied benefits and need to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, contact our office for immediate help.