Home > Defenses, Uncategorized > The Bite of the “Going and Coming” Rule

The Bite of the “Going and Coming” Rule

If an employee “lives” far away from where he “works” is he ever off duty?  The answer, according to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and the Court of Appeal, is yes!

In the case of Dann Peter Shubin v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, applicant worked as a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and was based in Oakland, even though he and his wife “lived” in Pasadena.  Applicant would arrange his schedule to have weekends off and would stay with friends or in his van between flights.

Under Southwest Airlines’ scheduling scheme, after a flight, reserve pilots like Mr. Shubin would receive a 9-hour “rest” period during which they could not be recalled for more work.  Applicant had just started one of these rest periods and decided to visit friends in Winters, a town roughly an hour away.

En route, applicant was in a car collision, and subsequently filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.  The Workers’ Compensation Judge found the injury AOE/COE (arising out of employment and within the course of employment), and defendant filed a petition for reconsideration.

Because the WCJ did not submit a report on recommendation, we will never know his reasoning.  Never the less, the WCAB studied the issue and granted reconsideration, recognizing that the coming and going rule applied to this case.  [If the going and coming rule does not apply to an employee who, by company-wide policy, can not under any circumstances be assigned any tasks for the next 9 hours, I don’t know where it would apply.]

The “going and coming” rule is one of those rare instances where common sense and reasonability poke their way through the shroud of California’s Workers’ Compensation system.  Essentially, the rule provides that injuries sustained going to or coming from work are not covered by workers’ compensation.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course.  These exceptions include “special missions” and “commercial travelers,” the details of which are the subject of a future post.  Because applicant was officially and actually off-duty for the next 9 hours, the going and coming rule applied and applicant’s claim was barred.

Applicant was a free man living in a nation of laws – he chose to “live” in Pasadena, he chose to “work” in Oakland, and he chose to visit Winters on the night of his unfortunate car accident.  The only alternative outcome for this case would have been to hold that if an employee works outside the four walls of his home, he is always on duty by virtue of being on the other side of his front door.

Dear readers, by no means am I the type of man to tell others how to run their businesses.  But it is worthy to note that in this case, Southwest was saved by having a company-wide policy of duty/off-duty pilots and sticking to that policy.  No doubt if applicant could have offered evidence that pilots were occasionally called back to duty during their “rest” period, in violation of this rule, the case would have turned out quiet differently.

Categories: Defenses, Uncategorized
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  1. February 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

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