Workers Compensation Law: Inherent Hazards Compensable After Employee is Terminated


Under the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (NIIA), an injured employee may receive workers' compensation benefits for injuries that arise out of and occur within the course of the employee's employment. Injuries occur "within the course" of employment when there exists a causal connection between the injury and the nature of the workplace.

Generally, an injury that occurs after the employment relationship ends is not compensable. However, in Fanders v. Riverside Resort & Casino, 126 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 50 (December 30, 2010), the Nevada Supreme Court recognized an exception to that rule. In Fanders, the employee cleaned hotel rooms at Riverside Resort & Casino. While at work one day, the employee was confronted by human resources with an accusation that she used foul language towards a coworker. The employee believed that Riverside was fabricating a reason to terminate her, so she became angry and quit.

The employee stated that she was next told to sign termination papers in the human resources office, and when she arrived there, security guards approached her and told her that they would escort her off Riverside's premises. However, the guards had been instructed to "86" the employee, and this required going to the security office and taking her photograph. The employee asked why they were trying to take her photo. They did not tell her, so she climbed under a table to avoid her picture being taken. According to the employee, one of the guards pulled her out from the table and called her a derogatory name. The employee was handcuffed and placed in a cell until a police officer arrived. The police officer cited the employee for battery against one of the guards.

The employee filed a civil suit against Riverside and the guards, who in turn filed summary judgment, asserting that the employee's injuries arose out of and within the course of her employment, and therefore the NIIA was the exclusive remedy for those injuries.

The Nevada Supreme Court ultimately remanded the case for resolution of factual disputes. Before doing so, the Court adopted the reasoning of Sanders v. Texas Employers Insurance Ass'n, 775 S.W.2d 762 (Tex. App. 1989):

In Sanders, the court held that once an employment relationship has ended, regardless of whether the employee quits or is fired, an injury that occurs at the job site or while leaving the job site generally is not sustained in the course of employment. Id. at 763-64. The court recognized, however, that even after termination, an injury still might be sustained in the course of employment if it occurs in a place where the employee is subject to the inherent hazards arising from the employment or if the employee is required to remain on the employer's premises "to take care of some other duty incidental to the termination." Id. at 764. We agree with the reasoning in Sanders that when an injury is the result of an inherent hazard of the employment or occurs in the course of conducting the termination, workers' compensation may apply to injuries sustained after the employment relationship is terminated.