May 14, 2018
appeal from the Board of Trustees of the Police and
Firemen's Retirement System, Department of the Treasury,
PFRS No. 3-10050623.
M. Gaylord argued the cause for appellant (Gaylord Popp, LLC,
attorneys; Samuel M. Gaylord, on the brief).
E. Kelly, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for
respondent (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney;
Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel;
George E. Loeser, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Judges Sabatino, Ostrer and Rose.
Police and Firemen's Retirement System Board of Trustees
denied Kristy Bowser an accidental disability pension.
Without dispute, she was "permanently and totally
disabled as a direct result of a traumatic event" at the
Mercer County Correctional Center (MCCC), where she was a
correctional officer. See N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7(1). She
suffered her disabling injury by falling on an icy patch near
the MCCC's parking lot. The sole question in Bowser's
appeal is whether the Board erred in finding that her fall
did not "occur during and as a result of the
performance of [her] regular or assigned duties . . . ."
fell while retrieving feminine hygiene products from her car.
She needed them while, unexpectedly, serving a second
consecutive shift. We conclude she suffered her injury during
the equivalent of a restroom break "within the confines
of the workday at the work location." Kasper v. Bd.
of Trs. of the Teachers' Pension & Annuity Fund,
164 N.J. 564, 586 n.7 (2000). The Supreme Court stated such
restroom breaks are included within "the performance of
an employee's actual duties . . . ." Id. at
585-86. We therefore reverse.
was the sole witness in the hearing before the Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ). Her testimony was undisputed. Bowser was a
fourteen-year veteran of the Mercer County Corrections
department when the accident occurred. On the day of the
accident, she had worked her assigned 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
shift overseeing inmates in a housing unit. During that
shift, her commander told her she had to work another
eight-hour shift on a detention floor, starting at 7:00 a.m.,
because another officer "called out." At about 7:30
a.m., Bowser asked a fellow officer on the detention floor to
cover for her, as she would if she had to use the restroom.
Bowser needed to run to her car to retrieve feminine hygiene
products because she was menstruating. As with a bathroom
break, Bowser did not "clock out" when she went to
her car, and was paid for the break time.
was parked on the MCCC grounds, in an area reserved for
corrections officers. On the way to her car, while walking
near an internal service road on MCCC grounds, she slipped on
black ice and fell. She was about fifteen to twenty feet from
the jail. Another officer who happened to be arriving helped
her get up. She continued to her car, then returned to the
building, went to the restroom, and "got [herself] back
together." Fifteen or twenty minutes later, her
commander relieved her for the day, as someone arrived to
perform the shift.
Board stipulated that Bowser was totally and permanently
disabled from performing her regular and assigned job duties.
It also stipulated that her disability directly resulted from
her fall, and her fall did not result from her willful
negligence. In his proposed decision, the ALJ found that
Bowser's injury was undesigned and unexpected, and it
occurred "during and as a result of the performance of
[her] regular or assigned duties." See N.J.S.A.
43:16A-7(1). In so doing, the ALJ rejected the Board's
initial position to the contrary on both points.
the ALJ found that Bowser met the five requirements for
receiving an accidental disability pension, which the Court
identified in Richardson v. Board of Trustees, Police and