Factory worker assembles compensable claim for parking lot injury
Hagerud v. North American Lighting, 16 ILWCLB 238 (Ill. Ind. Comm. 2008).
A majority of the Illinois Industrial Commission awarded benefits to the claimant, who fell in the employee parking lot after completing her shift, leaving, and then reentering the workplace.
What it means:
An employee's brief reentry into her workplace after her shift has ended, in order to use the bathroom facilities and get a beverage or food, constitutes a reasonable and foreseeable act under the personal comfort doctrine. Therefore, the employee's injury while returning to her vehicle in the employee's parking lot is covered under Illinois law.
Summary: The claimant was employed as a factory worker on the second shift. On the day of the accident, the claimant clocked out at 1:30 a.m., at the end of her shift, and went directly to her automobile in the employer's parking lot. She drover her vehicle closer to the building, parked and reentered the building. After using the bathroom, she obtained a cup of coffee and a candy bar for her ride home. While returning to her vehicle, the claimant tripped and fell over a parking curb. She testified that the lighting in the parking lot was dim and she did not see the curb. Relying on case law supporting the personal comfort doctrine, the arbitrator awarded benefits. Upon review, a commission majority affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.
Under the personal comfort doctrine, actions performed by an employee at work that are necessary to her health and comfort, even though personal to herself, will be considered incidental to her employment. Incidental acts are not within the course of employment only if done in an unusual, unreasonable or unexpected manner. Also, the arbitrator pointed out that the term "employment" contemplates not only actual work time, but a reasonable time before and after actual employment.
In this case, the claimant's act of reentering the building to use the bathroom and get a candy bar and coffee, which were made available to its employees by the employer, was both foreseeable and reasonable, given the personal needs of the claimant and the early morning hours in which the claimant was required to travel home. Furthermore, the employer's parking lot constituted an extension of the factory for a reasonable period of time. Accordingly, the claimant's brief detour when leaving the employer's parking lot did not remove her from the course of employment.
March 19, 2009
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