A caseworker employed by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS, or the Division, now referred to as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency) was recently denied Workers’ Compensation for injuries she received after being assaulted by her ex-husband in a parking lot at her workplace. The court determined that she was not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits, even though her ex discovered her location by contacting her employer, because DYFS’s actions did not somehow render the incident work-related. The decision was upheld by the New Jersey Appellate Division.
On May 23, 2007, caseworker Jennie Rosario was attacked by her ex-husband, who was armed with a knife, while she was leaving DYFS’s Maplewood office on the way to performing her duties as a caseworker. After the ex-husband attached Rosario, he used the knife to stab himself.
Just days before the attack, Rosario had been granted a judgment of divorce from her ex-husband, against whom she also had a domestic violence final restraining order that was issued after he kidnapped and attempted to murder her mother. The ex-husband had been in jail for those charges, but he was released on bail the month before and had been trying to make contact with Rosario.
At the time of the attack, Rosario had been transferred from DYFS’s East Orange office to its office in Maplewood. Because her ex-husband did not know where she lived, he contacted DYFS’s East Orange office to find her and was informed by the receptionist where she could be found.
As a result of the attack, Rosario filed a Workers’ Compensation claim against the Division. At trial, witnesses testified that the Division knew of the danger posed by Rosario’s ex-husband from multiple sources, including Rosario’s May 10, 2007 office relocation request, which noted that her ex-husband was released from prison and was making harassing calls to her. She expressed fear that he would come to her office. Rosario also provided a supervisor with a copy of the restraining order. The Division notified employees of her concerns, the security guard at the Maplewood office was instructed to screen anyone asking to meet with Rosario, and Rosario was told she could request an escort whenever she left the office.
Ultimately, the Workers’ Compensation Court judge ruled that she was not entitled to benefits because her injuries were caused by a situation entirely unrelated to her employment. The judge determined that the nature of her employment did not influence why she was attacked, and the attack was solely related to Rosario’s personal relationship with her ex-husband.
Rosario appealed, and the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the ruling and found that the Division had no legal responsibility to protect Rosario from the attack or conceal Rosario’s location from her ex-husband. Whether or not the Division was negligent was irrelevant, because the injury was not work-related.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Get Compensation For Workers Injured On-the-Job
If you or someone you love has been injured at work, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Shebell & Shebell have been fighting for injured workers for over eighty years, and can help you determine whether you have a viable case. For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Union Beach and Neptune.