N.Y. Law Curbs Principal’s Push for Benefits after Physical, Psychological Injuries

Frank Ferreri

New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – Anyone who’s been around a school lately knows that it’s not a stretch to say an educator could get hurt on the job.

However, as was the case in Matter of Cunningham v. Department of Education, Nos. 532936, 532937, 532938 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 05/26/22), in which a principal was denied benefits, that law might limit a teacher’s chances to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

The principal filed three separate workers’ compensation claims, alleging that she experienced multiple physical and psychological injuries related to incidents at work. Ultimately, a workers’ compensation law judge disallowed the claims on the basis that the principal was a pedagogical employee and not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under New York law.

The principal appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board, which affirmed, prompting her to appeal to court.

Under New York law, workers’ compensation benefits are available to teachers of “shop work, manual training, industrial or trade subjects” or other similar subjects, as well as “teachers of any subject, trade, or employment requiring, for instruction purposes, use of tools or machinery for which protective, guarding or safety devices are required by the labor law.”

The court upheld the previous decisions rejecting the principal’s claim for benefits, holding that the principal’s “employment responsibilities were principally pedagogical in nature” and that “she was not engaged in the instruction of any qualifying subject matter.”

The court emphasized that the principal’s duties included:

  • The direction and oversight of teaching staff, teaching methods, professional development, schedules, and testing.
  • The development of curriculum and the selection of textbooks.

As a result, the court agreed with the WCLJ and the board that the principal’s position was not eligible for benefits under the law.

“We find no basis to disturb the determination finding that [the principal] is not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits,” the court wrote.