Employee's Misconduct May Bar Recovery

As a general rule, employee fault does not bar an award of worker’s compensation. Rather, such awards are determined based on whether the injury occurs within the scope of employment and without reference to fault. However, some statutes provide for various defenses that employers might invoke to deny or reduce compensation awards when the injury resulted from employee misconduct. Among those defenses are willful misconduct, injury by intoxication, self-injury and injury by conduct specifically prohibited by the employer or the law. Nevertheless, none of these defenses are absolute. In this section, I discuss how each potential employer defense is limited in scope and subject to rebuttal by the employee. Finally, employee fault may be relevant in the context of intoxication, illegal acts and self-injury to the extent that such fault constitute a departure from employment.