Case name: Yzer, Inc. v. Rodr, No. 109150 (Okla. 06/05/12).
Ruling: The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a programmer was entitled to benefits for the heart attack he suffered while doing yard work for his employer.
What it means: In Oklahoma, when a worker is engaging in a special task that deviates from his normally assigned duties, he is not necessarily disqualified from receiving workers' compensation benefits.
Summary: A computer programmer's employer sought volunteers to do yard work at the employer's premises on Saturdays to make the grounds looks nice for a grand reopening. The programmer volunteered to perform these duties. He was not paid anything additional for the yard work. The programmer suffered a heart attack while loading a mower and other equipment. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The employer denied benefits, asserting that he was acting as a volunteer when he was injured. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that he was entitled to benefits because his injury arose out of and was in the course of his employment.
The court explained that the statutory definition of "volunteer" did not apply because the programmer was not "any other person" performing voluntary service without pay. He was a salaried employee and was working for the employer on the employer's premises. He was not a "volunteer" as defined in the statute just because he "volunteered" to help with the yard work.
The court explained that just because the programmer engaged in a special task for the employer that deviated from his normally assigned duties did not mean that he was disqualified from receiving workers' compensation benefits. The yard work was for the benefit of the employer and was not in furtherance of a personal mission.
The employer argued that the programmer had preexisting conditions that were the major cause of his heart attack. The employer pointed to the programmer's family history, weight, medical history, and history of smoking. The court disagreed with the employer, stating that the yard work was an extraordinary and unusual exertion when compared to the programmer's regular job, and the major cause of his injury was his employment.
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July 23, 2012
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