In our last workers’ compensation post, we covered a disturbing case where a decision by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission was overturned on appeal for a rare credibility problem. The Commission’s denial of workers’ coverage was disturbing because of how blatantly it disregarded testimony by the injured worker.
But that was not the only disturbing part of the Commission’s decision. The Commission had also strained to find a reason to say the worker was not hurt while “on the job.” The flimsiness of that part of the decision seems to indicate that lower courts are taking the “strict construal” of Missouri’s workers’ compensation laws to heart.
Commission Says Woman Not on the Job During Injury
The case revolved around a high school ESL teacher. It was early January when she parked her car and went into the Missouri high school to clock in, just like every other day. After opening the main doors to the building, she slipped and fell on the tile floor of the hallway.
There were no mats on the hallway, and the tiles were wet and dirty from the snowy conditions outside.
When she asked for workers’ compensation, though, the administrative judge denied it. He said he did not believe the worker’s testimony.
When she appealed the administrative judge’s decision, the Commission confirmed it. The Commission agreed with the judge’s ruling, and added that she was not at work when the accident happened.
An Attempt to Strictly Construe the Confines of the Workplace?
We have discussed what it means to be “on the job” for the sake of workers’ compensation, before. The scope of employment is a very fact-intensive issue, and even the contents of the suitcase you bring with you can matter.
Simply put, workplace injuries only lead to workers’ compensation if they happen within the scope of employment. An injury happens within the scope of employment only if it happens because of work, not just because it happened at work.
A big factor is the nature of the risk that caused the accident and injury. If the hurt worker would be just as exposed to the risk when they were not on the job, it is an indicator that the injury happened at work but not because of work.
When the Commission reviewed the ELS teacher’s case, it said the source of the risk that caused the accident was “walking.”
The obvious conclusion was that this risk was equally prevalent outside of work, so the accident was outside the scope of the hurt worker’s employment.
The strict construal of what it meant to be within the scope of employment, in the Commission’s eyes, seemed to be to do things that you never do on your own time.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The absurdity of the Commission’s ruling was obvious and dangerous to workers across Missouri. It meant workers who slip and fall at work could not get workers’ compensation because they walk when they are not on the job, too. Extending that idea could keep injured workers from getting compensation for accidents that could happen outside of work, too.
It took multiple appeals for the injured worker to get the compensation she was entitled to receive.
The personal injury lawyers and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph can help. If you have been hurt on the job, contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.