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Severe Allergic Reactions to Employer-Provided Meals

Although free food is a nice benefit for employees, providing food invites the relatively rare but potentially significant risk that an employee could suffer an allergic reaction. This is especially so if the allergen is not disclosed on the food’s packaging. Food provided in the workplace raises potential challenges for the employee who is injured and requires medical care. There are several dimensions that must be taken into account, such as whether the food was provided during working hours or was given to the employee to eat on personal time. These questions are important because they can determine if the employee’s illness or injury is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation law requires employers to insure their employees against injuries or illnesses that arise out of or in the course of employment. If food is provided to an employee during working hours or in connection with a work-related event, such as a meeting, the question of the injury’s work-relatedness likely will be answered in favor of coverage by workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation coverage has good and bad elements for an employee. On the one hand, it is a form of no-fault insurance that will cover medical costs, replace wages, and provide other benefits that vary according to the nature of the employee’s illness and other factors. On the other hand, an employee is barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit against an employer for most injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation. This is true even if the employer was negligent—for example, if another employee switched the warning labels on food so the injured employee did not know about the presence of an allergen. Workers’ compensation law may not restrict an employee’s ability to sue the service or restaurant that provided the food. If in the above example the negligent act that led to a mislabeling of food was committed by the outside service, the employee may have a good case that they have failed to take reasonable precautions to notify customers about the presence of potential allergens in their food. Restaurants take pains to track common allergens, like nuts, so when they fail to do so it is often a sign of negligence and actionable by someone who gets injured as a consequence. Cases involving businesses and employment are always more complicated than they might seem. Someone who is faced with complications from an allergic reaction to workplace food should consult with an attorney to better understand how the law can help them. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case, contact us at 702-388-4476 or through our contact page.