Injury When Violating Employer
Rules That Are Not Enforced

Even where an employee is aware of a rule, he should not be denied benefits for injuries that occur as a result of non-compliance with that rule, where his employer systematically failed to enforce the rule. An employer has a duty to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that safety rules are followed. If the employer knows, or has reason to know, that such rules are broken, he has a duty to at least warn non-complying employees. However, the employer’s duty may not extend to actually imposing penalties.

Employees have successfully asserted this rebuttal to employers’ defenses in a broad array of circumstances. The cases include carrying firearms, failing to shut down machinery prior to cleaning, working on electric lines without gloves, riding mine cars, using a charcoal heater in a truck, sleeping in a cab with the motor running, using gasoline for cleaning and not wearing a safety belt while washing windows. In those cases, the employee was injured while violating the rule. The employer maintained that the employee must be denied benefits because he/she violated the rule. In all these cases, the employee succeeded and was able to collect benefits, because the employer had not enforced the rules before.