Restaurant Must Pay Benefits Based on Dual Wages
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Inc. v. Waldenville, No. 111562 (Okla. 11/12/13)
Ruling: The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a restaurant was solely responsible for a worker’s benefits, and the worker’s two salaries from his security guard job and his sheriff’s department job should be combined for determining benefits.
What it means: In Oklahoma, private employers hiring off-duty police officers are responsible for the payment of workers’ compensation arising from incidents occurring during the hours of actual employment by the private employer.
Summary: A worker was employed full time as a major for the county sheriff’s department and part time as a security guard for a restaurant. The sheriff’s office gave permission for him to act as a security guard for the restaurant and other private employers. While delivering a night deposit to a bank for the restaurant, the worker was robbed and shot in the head. He sought workers’ compensation benefits. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the restaurant was solely responsible for his benefits and that his two salaries should be combined for determining benefits.
The restaurant asserted that the worker was operating in his capacity as a police officer when he was shot. The court rejected the argument, finding that the unambiguous language of the statute mandated that private employers hiring off-duty county employees are responsible for workers’ compensation benefits arising from incidents during the hours of employment by the private employer.
The court also found that the worker was engaged in the same or substantially similar employment to that of his profession as a major for the sheriff’s department when he was injured, warranting the combination of his salaries in determining benefits. The court said that considering the worker’s annual earning capacity was fair to the restaurant, the insurer, and the worker. The court pointed out that the worker was in his police uniform when he was shot, and the protection of public and private property fell within the realm of a police officer’s duties.