Worker’s Compensation laws in New Jersey are very clear when it comes to assault charges filed by an employee against another employee in the workplace.  In most cases the victim of an assault at work at the hands of a co-employee is generally covered by worker’s compensation.  However, in the recent case of Joseph v. Monmouth County, A-4144-13T3, an interesting exception to this employment law came up.  The exception being that, if the assault is shown to be completely unrelated to the workplace, i.e. completely motivated by personal conflicts, the victim of the assault is not eligible for worker’s compensation.  Said employee can, however, still pursue a common law negligence claim against the offending co-worker.

In the case of Lesley Joseph, it was revealed that he was involved in a pyramid scheme commonly known as a “sosu”.  This “sosu” was run by his assistant, and involved Mr. Joseph and several other co-workers.  The idea being that participants invested together, then took turns sharing in the profits.  On June 9, 2011, Lesley Joseph confronted his co-worker, asking why payments had not been made in recent weeks.  He was especially concerned because he was next in line to receive money from the “community pot”.  His co-worker told Mr. Joseph she had spent some of the money, but not to worry, he would be paid.  About two hours later, while Mr. Joseph was on break in the company break room, his co-worker entered the room and attack him with a hammer.  She later pled guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The original court ruling stated that the confrontation did not “arise out of and in the course of employment,” and held that the injury was the result of Mr. Joseph’s participation in the non-work related pyramid scheme.  As such, worker’s compensation benefits were denied by the trial judge who dismissed the claim and ruled in favor of the employer.

Upon appeal, the Appellate Division found they agreed with the trial Judge, stating that the mere fact that Mr. Joseph’s injuries were sustained in the workplace as a result of another employee’s behavior does not necessarily qualify Mr. Joseph for worker’s compensation.  In this case, the petitioner’s (Mr. Joseph) injuries were motivated by personal issues and had no relation to his employment.  The court further stated “Had the petitioner not been a participant in his assistant’s sosu, the attack would not have occurred.  Once he became involved and questioned his assistant about the ‘invested’ money, he was attacked at a location that just happened to be their place of employment.”

Workplace Harassment, being subject to a Hostile Work Environment, or Assault by a colleague in the workplace are all serious crimes.  If you or someone you love has been the victim of one of these crimes, please call the Law Offices of Kamensky, Cohen & Richelson today for a free consultation.