You Be the Judge

Worker Clocked Out Then Fell; Is Injury Compensable?

A worker suffered a fall injury on his way out of the building. His employer argued the fall occurred outside the scope of his employment.
By: | April 20, 2017 • 3 min read

A claims adjuster for Claims Management Resources had finished work and clocked out from his office, which was located on the second floor of the building. He was leaving the office for the day when he was injured while descending the stairs. He was unable to identify any factor that might have caused his fall.

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CMR owned the building, but other tenants were also in the building and had access to the stairwell. It was undisputed that CMR had a wellness program encouraging employees to use the stairs, but the use of the stairs was not required. The adjuster had access to an elevator that he could have used instead of the stairs.

The adjuster filed a workers’ compensation claim. The administrative law judge concluded that the adjuster failed to establish a compensable injury. The ALJ reasoned that the adjuster was not performing any employment services, so his injury was excluded from the definition of “course and scope of employment.”

The Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed. The Court of Civil Appeals also affirmed the commission’s decision, finding that the adjuster’s injury did not occur in the course and scope of his employment because it occurred in a common area adjacent to CMR’s place of business and was therefore not compensable. The adjuster appealed.

Did the ALJ err in determining that the worker’s fall was not compensable?

  • A. No. The adjuster’s injury occurred in an area adjacent to CMR’s place of business.
  • B. Yes. The adjuster was engaged in actions related to and in furtherance of CMR’s business when he was injured.
  • C. No. The adjuster had clocked out for the day when he was injured.

How the Court Ruled

A is incorrect. The court found that the adjuster’s injury occurred on CMR’s premises. Although CMR alleged that the stairwell was a common area used by other tenants, it did not dispute that it owned the building.

C is incorrect. The court said that the fact that the adjuster had clocked out for the day did not mean that his injury was outside the course and scope of his employment. The court pointed out that this exception would not apply until the adjuster left CMR’s premises.

B is correct. In Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc., et al., No. 113609 (Okla. 02/22/17), the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the worker was acting in the course and scope of his employment and that his injury was compensable.

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The court stated that the adjuster was following CMR’s instructions to leave his workstation after clocking out and exit the premises. The court explained that if a worker reporting for work as instructed and already on the premises is engaging in actions related to and in furtherance of the employer, so is a worker who is leaving work as instructed but not yet off the premises.

The court also found that it was not legislative intent to equate performing “employment services” with acting within the “course and scope of employment.” The court explained that by clocking out and leaving his second-floor workstation, the adjuster was complying with CMR’s instructions and therefore was still performing employment services at the time of his injury.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

Cyber Threat Will Get More Difficult

Companies should focus on response, resiliency and recovery when it comes to cyber risks.
By: | April 19, 2017 • 2 min read
Topics: Cyber Risks | RIMS

“The sky is not falling” when it comes to cyber security, but the threat is a growing challenge for companies.

“I am not a cyber apocalyptic kind of guy,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, who currently is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy.

Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, and principal, The Chertoff Group

“There are lots of things to worry about in the cyber domain and you don’t have to be apocalyptic to be concerned,” said Hayden prior to his presentation at a Global Risk Forum sponsored by Lockton on Sunday afternoon on the geopolitical threats facing the United States.

“We have only begun to consider the threat as it currently exists in the cyber domain.”

Hayden said cyber risk is equal to the threat times your vulnerability to the threat, times the consequences of a successful attack.

At present, companies are focusing on the vulnerability aspect, and responding by building “high walls and deep moats” to keep attackers out, he said. If you do that successfully, it will prevent 80 percent of the attackers.

“It’s all about making yourself a tougher target than the next like target,” he said.

But that still leaves 20 percent vulnerability, so companies need to focus on the consequences: It’s about response, resiliency and recovery, he said.

The range of attackers is vast, including nations that have used cyber attacks to disrupt Sony (the North Koreans angry about a movie), the Sands Casino (Iranians angry about the owner’s comments about their country), and U.S. banks (Iranians seeking to disrupt iconic U.S. institutions after the Stuxnet attack on their nuclear program), he said.

“You don’t have to offend anybody to be a target,” he said. “It may be enough to be iconic.”

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable.

And no matter how much private companies do, it may not be enough.

“The big questions in cyber now are law and policy,” Hayden said. “We have not yet decided as a people what we want or will allow our government to do to keep us safe in the cyber domain.”

The U.S. government defends the country’s land, sea and air, but when it comes to cyber, defenses have been mostly left to private enterprises, he said.

“I don’t know that we have quite decided the balance between the government’s role and the private sector’s role,” he said.

As for the government’s role in the geopolitical challenges facing it, Hayden said he has seen times that were more dangerous, but never more complicated.

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable, he said.

Nations such as North Korea, Iran, Russia and Pakistan are “ambitious, brittle and nuclear.” The Islamic world is in a clash between secular and religious governance, and China, which he said is “competitive and occasionally confrontational” is facing its own demographic and economic challenges.

“It’s going to be a tough century,” Hayden said.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]