The Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that a corrections officer can receive “assault pay” and “violence pay” after the officer injured his shoulder while carrying a footlocker during a hostage situation at the Essex County Jail.
The question before us is whether his injury qualifies him for payments under the so-called “assault pay” or “violence pay” provision of the General Laws. That provision entitles certain correctional employees who, “while in the performance of duty, receive bodily injuries resulting from acts of violence of patients or prisoners in [their] custody” to payments equal to their full salaries.
The statute at issue is G. L. c. 126, § 18A.
The undisputed facts were summarized by the Appeals Court as follows:
On January 2, 2018, the plaintiff was working in the 120 building of the Essex County correctional facility when, in a different building, one inmate took another hostage by holding a razor blade to his neck. Another officer, elsewhere in the 120 building, called the plaintiff to help carry a metal footlocker downstairs so its contents could be used to address the hostage situation; in doing so, the plaintiff injured his shoulder. The plaintiff returned to the control room in the 120 building while the other officer continued on, presumably bringing the footlocker to the scene. As a result of his shoulder injury, the plaintiff was unable to work.
The officer received workers’ compensation for the injury but did not collect “assault pay.” The trial court held that such pay should have been provided and the Appeals Court here affirmed the decision.
The plaintiff injured his shoulder while carrying equipment needed to address the hostage situation. Because of the inmate’s violent act of taking a hostage, the plaintiff carried the footlocker down the stairs. Because he carried the footlocker down the stairs, he suffered a shoulder injury. Thus, the plaintiff sustained an injury resulting from an act of inmate violence. Our case law makes clear that the plaintiff need not have been in the presence of the violent inmate when he injured his shoulder, and that the inmate need not have directed his violent act at the plaintiff, for the injury to have “resulted from” the inmate’s act of violence.
Thus, the officer, whose employment at the jail was terminated in 2019, is now entitled to “assault pay” with no offset for the sick pay he used prior to the court’s ruling.