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Pick a Fight, Get Workers’ Compensation
Description An employee called another employee racially insulting names. In response, the insulted co-worker hit him. Supreme Court of Oregon holds that the injuries from the assault arose in the course of employment and that, although the employee insulted his co-worker, he was not an active participant in the assault, so he was awarded workers’ compensation for his injuries. (Updated 10-3-97)
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Workers’ Compensation; Assault
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Lang, a white male, worked at a manufactured home plant. He called an African-American male co-worker "watermelon." The co-worker told him to stop calling him names. The next day, Lang called the co-worker "buckwheat," "Kentucky Fried Chicken," and "watermelon eatin’ fool." The co-worker called Lang a "cracker" and "honkey." Later, when Lang was speaking to a supervisor, the co-worker hit Lang twice and said, "Who’s a Toby now?" Lang obtained medical treatment and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The employer opposed the claim. The Administrative Law Judge ruled the injury was compensable. The Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed the ALJ’s order. The employer appealed. The appeals court held for the employer because Lang’s injury did not "arise out of" his employment. Lang appealed.
Decision Reversed. Decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board is affirmed and Lang receives compensation. Injuries from assaults at work are excluded if the injured person is an active participant in the assault and when the assault is not connected to the job assignment. Both elements must apply. Friction at work was the cause of the assault. Lang was not an active participant in a fight.
Citation Redman Industries v. Lang, 326 Or. 32 (Sup.Ct., Ore., 1997)

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