Home > Uncategorized > 5-6 Nights a Year Defeat “Special Mission” Exception to Going and Coming

5-6 Nights a Year Defeat “Special Mission” Exception to Going and Coming

Private security firms often present a tricky issue for workers’ compensation matters.  Injuries still occur, despite the rigorous training courses they provide:

And then comes the inevitable debate – who is to bear the cost of applicant’s (allegedly) industrial injury?

Be careful, dear readers, in opening the can of worms that is Robert Flores v. Garnett Protective Services & Security.  There certainly are a few layers to this case.

Applicant Robert Flores was employed by Garnett, which, under the terms of its contract, provided security to Joseph’s Café.  Joseph’s was a venue version of Batman, providing restaurant service by day and night club service by night.  On occasion, Joseph’s Café would tip Flores and other security guards for a job well done, or offer them additional hours on a cash basis for extra events that were not on the regular schedule.

Garnett had trained Flores, and had the power to hire, fire, or direct his work.  Joseph’s had no one of these powers.

Mr. Flores was called in to do an extra shift, as he is five or six times a year, and was on his way to Joseph’s Café when an unfortunate automobile collision resulted in a claimed industrial injury.  Joseph’s Café had insurance, while Garnett had allowed its insurance to lapse, bringing in the California Insurance Guarantee Association.  CIGA’s position was, to the surprise of absolutely no one, that Joseph’s was also Flores’ employer, and that the injury sustained by Flores was industrial as a “special mission” exception to the “going and coming rule.”

The Arbitrator agreed, reasoning that employment was established by showing that sometimes Joseph’s would hire Flores directly to cover special events that were outside the scope of Joseph’s contract with Garnett, and that the special event to which Flores was going on the night of his injury constituted a “special mission” because it was unusual.

Joseph’s insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association Insurance Company, petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board for reconsideration, which was readily granted.  The WCAB held that Flores was not an employee of Joseph’s because Joseph’s had no power to control the manner of his performance or to terminate his employment, only to terminate its contract with Garnett.

Furthermore, because Flores worked special events, like the one he was headed to at the time of his injury-causing-collision, this was not a special errand or mission but just a regular discharge of his duties (although required of him infrequently).  Therefore, there was no industrial injury.

The dissenting opinion to the panel would have concurred with respect to employment, but not with respect to industrial injury.  Deputy Commissioner Sullivan would have found an industrial injury, reasoning that the scheduled event Flores was to work met the definition of a “special mission,” which “occurs when the employee is invited or required by the employer to perform an activity that is within the course of the employment, but is unusual or extraordinary in relation to the employee’s routine duties.”

Bear in mind, dear readers, that your humble blogger’s very instincts militate against agreeing with any notion that any injury should be considered industrial.  However, in this case, he is inclined to agree with Commissioner Sullivan’s opinion.  Although applicant’s regular job included duties year-round, a special mission was involved five to six nights a year.  Percentage-wise, the special events constituted 1.4-2% of the nights in the year, which should meet the definition of “unusual or extraordinary.”

But, there is cause for rejoicing all around, no?  After all, Pennsylvania is off the hook because it is not an employer; CIGA is off the hook because no industrial injury occurred, and Garnett is not on the hook as much as it thought it was, because the injury is now Flores’ responsibility (here’s hoping Mr. Flores had auto insurance!)

Categories: Uncategorized
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