An employee was injured while driving to work. Normally, that wouldn’t be covered under workers’ compensation because of the “going and coming” rule. But this worker had not one but three possible reasons why that didn’t apply in his case.
Scott Garrity was a part-time bailiff at the District Court for Baltimore City in Maryland. One day in June, he realized he had worn a Christmas tie to work and the court’s dress code required a blue tie. On top of that, he spilled coffee on his shirt and tie.
He decided to go home to change his shirt and tie. On the way back to work, he was in a serious car crash. His injuries required a month’s stay in the hospital.
Garrity applied for workers’ comp for his injuries. His employer appealed. The Workers’ Compensation Commission granted him benefits. The Circuit Court for Baltimore County reversed that decision. Garrity took his case to Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals.
He argued that his injury should be covered by workers’ comp because of:
- the special mission exception
- the dual purpose doctrine, and
- the personal comfort exception.
The court considered each argument.
A special mission occurs when “an employee is acting in the course of employment when traveling on a special mission or errand at the request of the employer and in the furtherance of the employer’s business, even if the journey is one that is to or from the workplace.”
Garrity claimed that the court’s policy on appropriate attire mandated that he go home and change his shirt and tie. However, the appeals court noted that nobody instructed Garrity to go home and change, so that exception didn’t apply.
One argument down.
The dual purpose doctrine provides that an injury is compensable if it occurs during a trip that serves both a business and personal purpose. Garrity said his injury was compensable because he was advancing the judiciary’s interests. The bailiff noted that he had his radio with him so he could monitor communication and return if needed and that this was a dual purpose trip because of the court’s dress code.
The appeals court said the fact he had his radio with him didn’t demonstrate he had authority to leave the courthouse.
As to the second mention of the dress code, the court wrote Garrity “may have thought that his attire was inappropriate, but the interests of the courthouse would have been better served by appellant remaining at the courthouse.”
So his second argument was shot down as well.
The personal comfort exception applies to situations in which workers are injured on paid breaks.
The appeals court found that the terms of Garrity’s part-time employment didn’t entitle him to a paid break during which he could attend to his personal comfort.
Not one of Garrity’s arguments stuck. That meant he would not get workers’ comp for his injuries.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
(Garrity v. Insured Workers’ Insurance Fund, Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, No. 1185, 2/9/12)