Q: An employee in our plant fell, shattering an expensive wristwatch of great sentimental value to her. Fortunately, she only had a minor bruise, and returned to work the next day without restrictions.
She has now given us a watch repair estimate of several hundred dollars, asking that we submit it to our workers' compensation insurer as a loss associated with a work injury claim.
Is this covered under our workers' compensation insurance?
A: Workers' compensation insurance, which every employer is required to have under state law, provides two basic types of benefits for a worker injured on the job: Payment of medical expenses related to treatment of the work injury, and a wage benefit to cover wage losses for time of incapacity and inability to work due to an injury.
While there are some additional forms of benefit payments related to ongoing medical incapacity and rehabilitation, property damage is not an insured or covered loss under workers' compensation insurance or state law.
You might try to submit it as a damage claim under your general business liability insurance, although it may not exceed your deductible.
Or you might suggest the employee see if her homeowners or renters insurance would accept the claim.
If there is no insurance coverage, offering to pay at least a portion of the replacement cost would be a good employee relations gesture.
However, it could be viewed as an expensive precedent other employees may attempt to take advantage of in the future for losses or damage to personal property brought or worn to work.
Company policy concerning personal property should strongly discourage employees from bringing expensive personal property to the workplace, whether it is jewelry, radios, pocket bags, or clothing.
Such policies should also disclaim any employer liability for any personal property that is damaged or lost at work.
If you do not have a clear policy statement on this but intend to address it in a new policy, you might be a bit more flexible in this final instance, advising employees that in the future, you will not cover such losses.