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Employer not liable for death benefits for employee’s fatal shooting

Posted On: Feb. 7, 2023 10:37 AM CST


A Louisiana appellate court ruled that an employer was not liable for death benefits for the fatal shooting of an employee by her boyfriend at her workplace.

Fabeka Hayes worked as a manager of a Church’s Chicken restaurant in New Iberia. While she was in the process of closing the restaurant on May 12, 2020, Clarence Joseph Payton entered the establishment and fatally shot Ms. Hayes, who he had been dating, according to Hayes v. Church’s Chicken, filed in the Court of Appeal, 3rd Circuit on Feb. 1.

Ms. Hayes’ mother filed a claim for workers compensation benefits, which Church’s Chicken denied the claim, asserting Ms. Hayes’ death did not occur within the course and scope of her employment. A workers compensation judge found Ms. Hayes’ death did not arise out of her employment duties, as her murder was related to a domestic dispute with Mr. Payton over matters unrelated to her job.

Ms. Hayes’ mother appealed, arguing that Church’s Chicken did not meet its burden of proving that Ms. Hayes was engaged in a dispute. She insisted that her daughter had ended the relationship with Mr. Payton after having lived together for 12 years, and severed all ties with him days before the murder. The mother also contended that since surveillance of the event showed Ms. Hayes did not actively engage or fight, there was no dispute with Mr. Payton, who she testified had threatened or attempted to kill Ms. Hayes in the past.

Given this record, the Louisiana Court of Appeal said, the judge did not err in concluding that an ongoing domestic dispute with Mr. Payton “was in no way connected to (Ms. Hayes’) employment except for the fact that it occurred at her place of employment.”

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