In November 2009, Sudbury Police Officer Ryan Boyd tore a muscle in his chest while lifting weights. Although he was working out at a private gym on his own time, he was doing so in preparation for an upcoming physical fitness assessment that was a mandatory part of his role on the METRO-LEC METRO-STAR “Regional Response Team.” The Town refused to grant Boyd Injured on Duty Leave, arguing that the injury was sustained while Boyd was “taking part in a personal hobby that had no connection to his job as a Sudbury Police Officer.”
The Sudbury Police Association, MCOP Local 370, AFL-CIO, arbitrated the case, represented by Attorney Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C. The Arbitrator agreed with the Union’s argument and found that Boyd’s injury “arose out of and in the course of his employment” because the Town required Officer Boyd to be in “excellent physical condition” and participate in an “ongoing physical fitness program” while not providing him paid time to exercise nor a facility in which to do so. The Arbitrator also noted that Boyd’s commanding officer had advised him and his fellow RRT members to keep training for the upcoming assessment.
The arbitrator rejected the Town’s argument that Boyd was engaged in a hobby that had no connection to his employment. The fact that Officer Boyd enjoyed weight lifting and had a long history of regular fitness training was irrelevant. The heightened physical requirements of Boyd’s specialized team meant that he did not have the option to stop training. Also, the arbitrator noted that officers already committed to physical fitness are more likely to serve on a team that requires a high level of fitness.
The Town was ordered to restore Boyd’s wages and benefits to the level they would have been set at had his request for §111F benefits been originally granted. The town will also have to restore all of the paid leave time Boyd was required to use during his recovery.
This is an important decision for Massachusetts police officers and fire fighters. It is not uncommon for injuries to occur while training to meet required physical fitness standards, and this award provides strong support for the argument that those injuries are compensable.
Read the Arbitrator’s Award…