In Essary, the claimant worked as a Senior Network Engineer, and his duties included working with client to resolve various technical issues. The claimant’s typical schedule was 6:00am to 2:00pm. However, the claimant was “on-call” during all other hours he was not working his typical schedule. The claimant typically received a call five to ten times a year, asking him to come in to resolve an issue that came up outside of his typical work hours. Being “on-call” did not require strict attendance, meaning that if the claimant were to receive one of these calls while he was busy, he could decline to come in and his employer would reach out to another IT employee. On Saturday, August 31, 2019, the claimant received a phone call around noon, asking him to go into work to assist with a technical problem. The claimant used his motorcycle to make the 7-minute drive to his office to assist the client. The claimant worked on the problem for just over an hour before he left to make the drive home. While on his motorcycle ride home, the claimant drifted into a median, which caused an accident that yielded significant and serious injuries to the claimant (broken bones in his hand, spine, leg, and foot).
The claimant went to hearing seeking benefits for injuries sustained in the crash on his way home from work. At hearing, the ALJ determined that the claimant failed to establish that the injuries he sustained in that motorcycle crash were related to his employment. The claimant argued that if he were not on-call, he would not have been called into work, and therefore would not have gotten into a motorcycle crash on his way home from work. However, the ALJ explained that in reviewing the facts of this case, claimant did not meet the traditional criteria of being “on-call” and his travel to and from work were not directly related to his employment. In the traditional setting, an employee cannot typically decline an employer’s call to come into work; however, the ALJ explained that the claimant had the liberty to decline a call from an employer if he so chose. Claimant was not absolutely required to go into work. Additionally, the ALJ explained that once the claimant had completed the task he was called in for, and left the premises, the claimant was no longer acting at the behest of the employer. The motorcycle crash was not resultant of any reason related to claimant’s employment, rather the ALJ explained that the crash was caused by the claimant’s momentary loss of focus when driving home. For all of those reasons, the ALJ denied the claim for medical and temporary disability benefits.
The claimant appealed this decision to the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (the “Panel”) and argued that his injury occurred while coming home from a work assignment outside of his normal work hours, and being called in was the only reason he was at the particular intersection where the accident occurred. However, the Panel did not agree with the claimant’s assertion. The Panel explained that generally, an employee who is injured while traveling to or from work ordinarily is not entitled to compensation. Reference is made to the case Madden v. Mountain W. Fabricators, which established a number of factors to determine whether special circumstances would allow for recovery under the Worker’s Compensation Act. These factors include: 1) whether the travel occurred during working hours; 2) whether the travel occurred on or off work premises; 3) whether the travel was contemplated by the employment contract; and 4) whether the obligations or conditions of employment crated a “zone of special danger” that then caused the injury. The Panel explained that although the first Madden factor had been satisfied, that the claimant’s travel took place outside of his normal work hours, the other factors had not been. The travel had taken place off the employer’s premises, the claimant’s travel was not contemplated by his contract, and the work assignment did not create a “zone of special danger.” The Panel further explained that the claimant was not required to accept the work assignment he was called for that Saturday and that claimant was never paid for his travel into or away from the office. For those reasons, the Panel affirmed the ALJ’s finding that the claimant’s motorcycle crash was not related to the claimant’s employment and the claimant was not entitled to benefits.
Essary v. General Dynamics, W.C. No. 5-117-912 (I.C.A.O. Dec. 1, 2020)