County of Outagamie v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2013AP217 (Wis. Ct. App. 07/30/13).
Ruling: The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to benefits because he was acting in the course of employment when he fell in his driveway.
What it means: In Wisconsin, a worker is entitled to portal-to-portal coverage if the special errand exception applies.
Summary: A maintenance worker for a county was assigned to "pager duty," which required him to carry a pager during the hours when no other workers were on duty. The county paged workers if there was an emergency. Workers responding to a page were paid overtime and travel time. The worker received a page while he was relaxing at home. The area was in the midst of an ice storm, and residents were advised not to travel because of the hazardous road conditions. The worker reported to work in response to the page, repaired a door at the county jail, and returned home. The worker parked in his garage but had to walk on his icy driveway to reach his house. He grabbed a handful of salt to throw on his path of travel toward his house. As he tossed the salt, he slipped and fell, sustaining injuries. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court explained that a worker is in the course of employment while going to or from work if he is performing a "special errand" for the direct benefit of the employer. The court rejected the county's argument that the worker's special errand ended before he was injured. The court pointed out that the worker was inside his house when he received the page and that he was required to step on the icy driveway to reenter his home. The court found that the worker was entitled to portal-to-portal coverage.
The court said that the fact that the worker reached the premises owned by him before he was injured did not mean that he was no longer on a special errand. The worker was "still in the process of returning from his trip" when he fell.
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October 7, 2013
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