Drivers claim 'extrahazardous' activities despite retailer's business
Araguz v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-11-0029, S-11-0030 (Wyo. 10/28/11).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that drivers for a retailer were not entitled to benefits because the retailer was not engaged in extrahazardous business activities and did not elect to contribute to the state workers' compensation fund.
What it means: In Wyoming, an employer's primary business dictates its workers' compensation classification, not the activities of its employees.
Summary: Two drivers who worked at a retailer's distribution center sustained work-related injuries. Wyoming requires businesses engaged in "extrahazardous employment" to contribute to a state workers' compensation fund. The retailer had been assigned a code that was not defined as "extrahazardous," so it was not required to participate in the state fund. The retailer maintained its own privately funded workers' compensation fund. The drivers reported their injuries to their supervisors and received benefits from the retailer under its privately funded plan. The drivers also filed reports of injury to the Workers' Safety and Compensation Division. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that the drivers were not entitled to benefits.
The drivers argued that they should receive compensation because they were engaged in extrahazardous warehousing activities. The court pointed out that the industrial classification assigned to the retailer was based on its primary business. State rules specifically indicate that separate operations are not assigned separate classifications. This showed that the responsibilities and activities of each worker were not taken into account.
In this case, the distribution center was not designated a classification independent from that assigned to the retailer's stores. The court said the division appropriately assigned the retailer a classification based on its primary business, which was not considered extrahazardous. Therefore, the drivers were ineligible for benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 15, 2011
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