Sergeant Daniel Young works for the Butte County Sheriff's Department as a correctional sergeant at the county jail.  Department Order No. 3004, issued in 2004, requires all correctional officers, including correctional sergeants, to maintain themselves in good physical condition so that they can handle the strenuous physical contacts required of a law enforcement officer.  Correctional sergeants are also required to complete periodic training exercises each year, which consist of a warm-up period and then different types of physical activity, including take-down techniques and self-defense and offensive methods. 

In order to maintain the requisite level of physical fitness, Sergeant Young conducts his own fitness regimen at home when off duty.  The regimen involves doing warm-up calisthenics, including jumping jacks, before using his elliptical machine or multi-station weight machine.  In January 2012, while doing jumping jacks as part of his normal warm-up calisthenics, Sergeant Young landed and felt an extreme stabbing pain in his left knee.  He reported the injury as work-related because he injured himself while exercising in order to maintain his physical fitness as required by the Department. 

The workers' compensation judge concluded that Sergeant Young's injury was compensable (e.g., covered by workers' compensation), but the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) disagreed and overturned the decision. The Court of Appeal reviewed, and overturned, the WCAB's decision. 

Under Labor Code section 3600, an injury arising out of voluntary participation in an off-duty athletic activity that is not part of the employee's work-related duties is not compensable unless the activity is required or a "reasonable expectancy" of employment.  To determine "reasonable expectancy," a two-part test is applied: (1) does the employee subjectively believe that his employer expected his participation in the injury-producing activity; and (2) was this belief objectively reasonable?  

At issue in this case was whether Sergeant Young's belief that the Department expected him to engage in warm-up calisthenics as part of an off-duty exercise regimen was objectively reasonable.  The Court of Appeal held that it was. 

The Court stated that there must be a substantial nexus between the employer's expectations and the specific off-duty activity in which the employee was engaged when the injury occurred.  The Department expects its correctional sergeants to maintain their physical fitness.  However, it does not provide them an opportunity to exercise or maintain a fitness regimen during work hours, nor does it provide guidance as to the types of exercises or activities considered appropriate for maintaining the requisite level of fitness.  Thus, it was objectively reasonable for Sergeant Young to believe that the Department expected him to engage in an off-duty regimen to maintain his physical fitness.  

As for the specific activity, it is objectively reasonable to believe that the Department would expect a sergeant's exercise regimen to include warm-up calisthenics, and jumping jacks are one of the most common calisthenics.  The Court also noted that the Department's periodic training exercises begin with a warm-up period.  Therefore, there is a substantial nexus between the Department's requirement that its correctional sergeants maintain good physical condition and Sergeant Young's specific off-duty activity of jumping jacks.  Thus, the Court of Appeal held that Sergeant Young's injury was compensable, and remanded for further proceedings. 

NOTE:

In Young, the Court of Appeal noted:

To allay any concerns law enforcement departments may have about potentially increased liability as a result of this decision, we note that departments have the ability to limit the scope of potential liability by designating and/or preapproving athletic activities or fitness regimens as the police department did in Taylor v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 211.

Young v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (2014) 173 Cal.Rptr.3d 643.