Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Court of Appeal Denies Workers' Compensation Benefits for Officer's Injury During "Hold Over" Shift Commute

On May 19, 2014, the California Court of Appeal in Lanz v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board ruled an officer's family was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits because an employee's commute after a "hold over" shift fell outside his ordinary course of employment.

In Lanz, a Pleasant Valley prison correctional officer was "held over" from his regular shift and worked 16 hours.  The officer was killed in a car accident during his commute home.  The officer's dependents filed claims for workers' compensation benefits.

Under the "coming and going" rule, an employee is not within the scope of employment when driving home or to work unless undertaking a "special mission."  A "special mission" is a specific instance when an employee is sent by their employer to do something unusual for the purpose of furthering business. 

The Court considered the location, timing, and nature of the officer's task during his hold over shift.  The hold over shift directly followed the officer's regular shift and was at his regular place of work.  The hold over shift affected the officer's commute only by changing the time of his drive home, but not the distance or location.  The Court held the officer's hold over shift was a common occurrence, and not a "special mission."  Therefore, his commute was not in the course of employment and his family was denied workers' compensation benefits.