Cook's intoxication blocks claim for death benefits, funeral expenses
Pfohl v. Swalley, d/b/a The Gold Room, 18 ILWCLB 132 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2010).
Ruling: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission held that a cook who was injured while intoxicated did not sustain an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.
What it means: In Illinois, where an employee is expected to descend stairs in a safe manner throughout his workday, and he cannot perform this job duty due to his intoxication, the employee has departed from the course of his employment.
Summary: A breakfast cook worked for a tavern. It was not uncommon for him to complete his shift, go to another job, and return to the tavern later in the day to complete the preparation work for the next morning's breakfast. Many of the cooking supplies were kept in the basement. One day, the cook completed his shift and stayed at the tavern and drank beer with friends. Later, he tumbled down the tavern's basement stairs. The basement was not open to the general public and had no exit. He was pronounced dead. The death certificate showed the cook's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. In denying benefits, the arbitrator noted that the cook could not safely perform his job, which included using a meat grinder, a hot grill, and the stairs, at his level of intoxication. Upon review, the commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision.
The arbitrator explained that even assuming the cook intended to go into the basement to perform his duties, there was no evidence indicating that he fell due to defective stairs, a hazard, or something he was carrying. The cook had used the stairs hundreds of times throughout his employment. He never demonstrated his ability to perform the duties of a cook after leaving his shift and becoming intoxicated. Thus, he never returned to his employment.
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December 2, 2010
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