• Key point. All states have enacted workers compensation laws to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment. Benefits generally are financed through insurance premiums paid by employers. Churches are subject to workers compensation laws in most states.
• Key point. Employees are not eligible for workers compensation benefits unless they suffer an injury or illness in the course of their employment that renders them disabled.
A Louisiana court ruled that a church music director who claimed to have suffered increased sensitivity to chemicals as a result of her exposure to pine scented Lysol at church was not eligible for workers compensation benefits. A woman was hired by a church as its music director. As part of her job duties, the music director was required to direct both the bell choir and the chancel choir. During choir rehearsals she would demonstrate to the choir members how to sing, and breathing techniques for singing. In order to maintain her singing voice, it was necessary for her to practice one hour each day. During her tenure as music director the church choir was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall under her direction. One day, after arriving at church for a staff meeting, the music director noticed a very strong odor of pine scented Lysol. Lysol was being used in a room in the area to clean the toys and walls of the nursery. This concerned her because she had been diagnosed as having asthma as a child and also had an allergy to pine. She asked that the door remain open for the meeting and that the fan be turned on in order to help the odor dissipate. The meeting lasted approximately one and one-half hours. After the meeting she left the building for about one and one-half hours. Upon her return she continued to smell the Lysol. As she left the church later that day she noticed that she was having difficulty breathing. She used a "bronchodilator" and then took an antihistamine, falling asleep shortly afterward. The next morning, she received a telephone call from a friend, who could barely understand her voice. The friend and her husband went to the music director's home where they found her face to be swollen almost beyond recognition. A few days later, after returning to work, she again noted the smell of pine scented Lysol and found that it was again being used to clean the nursery area. She immediately left the building. Following this second exposure, the music director requested that she be notified before any chemicals were used in the church. A few days later she again was exposed to pine Lysol fumes at church, and immediately left the building.