Did a worker’s choice between two employer parking lots on the day he was injured seal his eligibility for workers’ comp?
Kenneth Acosta worked for Exide Technologies in Reading, PA.
Exide owned two parking lots. Lot B was next to the plant. Lot A was across the street. Employees could park in either lot.
On Nov. 12, 2010, Acosta parked in Lot A which was closer to the time clock where he had to punch in. Lot B was closer to the place where he picked up his uniform. He was required to do pick up his uniform and clock in each day before starting his shift.
While crossing the street from Lot A, Acosta was struck by a car. He suffered skull fractures and is completely disabled.
Acosta filed for workers’ comp benefits, but Exide denied the claim, reasoning he wasn’t on company property when he was injured.
A workers’ comp judge (WCJ) agreed that, since Acosta wasn’t injured on his employer’s property, he wasn’t eligible for workers’ comp.
But on appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) looked at the situation differently. It ruled the street where Acosta was injured was “integral to [his] employer’s business” because he was at that place at that time directly because of his employment.
Exide appealed the WCB decision to a state court, arguing the place where Acosta was injured was a public street and wasn’t integral to its business.
It turns out, two previous workers’ comp cases in Pennsylvania had already addressed this issue.
Required to park there?
It was established in previous cases that an employer’s premises can include property that “could be considered an integral part of the employer’s business.” Property becomes integral to an employer’s business when the employer requires employees to use that property.
In one case, an employee was hit by a car while crossing the street between her employer’s office and her employer’s parking garage. The employer didn’t require employees to park in the garage, but it did provide tax incentives for parking there. The employee was free to park her car where she chose. Because the street between the garage and her office wasn’t integral to the employer’s business, the court ruled she wasn’t on the employer’s property at the time of her injury.
In the second case, an employee was hit by a car while crossing the street between his employer’s parking lot and his workplace. The employer required its employees to park in assigned lots. Because of that, the lot and street were found to be integral to the employer’s business, and the employee’s injury was found to have occurred on the employer’s premises.
The state court ruled Acosta’s case was similar to the first one. Acosta wasn’t required to park in Lot A, and he wasn’t prohibited from parking in Lot B or on the street. Therefore, Acosta wasn’t on Exide’s premises when he was injured.
The court reinstated the WCJ’s opinion, and Acosta was denied workers’ comp benefits.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of this case, so the lower court decision stands.
A reminder: This sort of detail within workers’ comp law varies from state to state.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? Let us know in the comments.
(Exide Technologies v. Acosta, Commonwealth Court of PA, No. 469C.D.2013, 9/18/13)