I read about a California nurse over the weekend who filed a workers’ compensation claim after injuring herself. She told her employer, a hospital, that she hurt her back “while waking up from a nightmare”. I wondered aloud how waking up from a nightmare could in any way be associated with her job. My wife reminded me that medical professionals sometimes work long shifts, and hospitals may provide sleeping quarters for these personnel. This would be no different than other emergency workers, such as firefighters, who may work on a round the clock basis as part of a regular schedule.
And while I appreciated the clarification, I again wondered aloud how waking up from a nightmare could in any way be associated with her job.
I’ve never thought about it, really. I suppose “on the clock” is “on the clock”, and if sleeping in an employer provided premise while on an extended shift is considered part of the job, then an injury resulting from that activity might be compensable. I didn’t say it makes sense, I merely acknowledged the possibility of such a claim.
Personally for me, it is a stretch. Sleeping on a shift may be a normal and customary activity, but having a nightmare clearly is not within the course and scope of employment. Have those on your own time for crying out loud. The company is paying you while you sleep. The least you could do is dream about your job, and how to do it better. Anything less is a clear dereliction of duty, and should be subject to disciplinary action.
However, in this case it was all for naught, as the claim has since been found to be fraudulent. What a shocker.
It turns out that the woman filed for state disability benefits and then for workers' compensation benefits, which she collected over seven years. The system paid all of her medical expenses while she received more than $88,000 for the two years she claimed to be unable to work.
She had back surgery in May 2010, after which she claimed to be worse off than before. That is probably the most believable part of this entire affair.
The woman had declared in court documents that her mother had to help her bathe and dress, that she required the use of a walker at all times. She also claimed that she was depressed and generally unable to leave home because her medication made her groggy.
Private investigators proved that to not be entirely accurate when they filmed her over an eight-hour period “shopping, dining and moving around with no walker and without any sign of pain or discomfort”, according to prosecutors.
She was also recorded on another occasion moving potted plants on her balcony, shopping and walking several hundred yards to go to a picnic.
She was found guilty, and sentenced to six years in local custody for defrauding her employer out of more than $300,000 in workers' compensation benefits. She will serve half of her six-year sentence in county jail and the other half on mandatory supervision in the community.
I hope she doesn’t hurt herself having any nightmares in jail. That could be very expensive for the county.