Willful Misconduct in the Workplace Examples | Injured Workers in the News #89

A news report about the President of the United States offers an excellent example as to  a claim of Serious and Willful Misconduct is within California Workers’ Compensation.

While the facts do not fall within workers’ compensation, they do lay out facts that offer an insight as to what would be considered as excellent example of what constitutes serious and willful misconduct.

According t the facts,  the President’s dog, a german shepherd, has bitten seven people over a period of four months.  Additional facts, per the Dailymail is that the  “ [secret service] officers called the dog ‘freaking crazy’.   One officer indicated that “ he [the dog] would have been ‘put down’ if he didn’t belong to the Bidens and said he needed a muzzle.”  It was also reported that  “on November 10, 2022, Jill Biden ‘couldn’t regain control’ of Commander as the dog charged another member of the Secret Service.”

What Is Serious and Willful Misconduct? Why Is It Important?

Labor Code Section 4553, provides that “[t]he amount of compensation otherwise recoverable shall be increased one-half, together with costs and expenses not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250), where the employee is injured by reason of the serious and willful misconduct.

One version of Serious and Willful Misconduct is actions that exceed negligence.

Who Are The People Who Can Engage In Serious and Willful Misconduct?

The people who can commit serious and willful misconduct are defined in Labor Code Section 4553.  This includes (a) the employer, or his managing representative, (b) If the employer is a partnership, on the part of one of the partners or a managing representative or general superintendent thereof, and (c) If the employer is a corporation, on the part of an executive, managing officer, or general superintendent thereof.

What Is The Nature of Serious and Willful Misconduct?

“Serious and willful misconduct within the meaning of section 4553 is an act deliberately done for the express purpose of injuring another, or intentionally performed whether with knowledge that serious injury is a probable result or with a positive, active, wanton, reckless and absolute disregard of its possibly damaging consequences.” (Ferguson v. Worker’s Comp. Appeals Bd. (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1613, 1622 [39 Cal. Rptr. 2d 806, 60 Cal. Comp. Cas 275].) Serious and willful misconduct is greater than negligence or even gross  negligence. (Mercer-Fraser Co. v. Ind. Acc. Comm. (1953) 40 Cal.2d 102, 120 [251 P.2d 955, 18 Cal. Comp. Cas 3]; Johns-Manville Sales Corp. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1979) 96 Cal.App.3d 923, 931 [158 Cal. Rptr. 463, 44 Cal. Comp. Cas 878].)

What Makes These Facts Suggestive of Serious and Willful Misconduct?

The facts laid out can show that the employer or management was aware of a known danger.  The President was well aware that his dog was dangerous.  The first bite was the proof.  Thus, any further biting of employees would be considered as an act of serious and willful misconduct.  Additional facts to support this position are that it was known by management aht the dog was “crazy” and requests had been made that that the dog be muzzled.

In essence, fact preceding any further bite or attack are crucial to the analysis.  Surely, this matter exceeded mere negligence.  Whether or not this matter falls into serious and willful misconduct would be the subject of the trier of fact. In other words, the only way that this can be determined is by a Judge’s ruling after a trial.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 30 years. Contact us today for more information.

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