Flight Attendant Secures Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Award Despite Being on an Airport Shuttle Bus When Her Accident Happened
In employees’ workers’ compensation cases, there are certain commonplace and frequently used arguments that employers will deploy in an effort to succeed and avoid paying benefits. One of these is that the employee’s injury did not take place in the “course and scope of her employment.” That legal language means that the worker wasn’t actually “on the job,” or doing any action that benefited the employer, when the accident happened. There are various ways allowed by the law to still recover an award of benefits even if you were not “on the clock” when your accident occurred. For advice about these and other workplace injury issues, talk to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney about your case.
One employee who faced this “course and scope of her employment” argument in her case, and overcame it, was Betty, a Philadelphia-based flight attendant working for a major airline. One January night, after completing her shift traveling to Miami and back, the flight attendant caught a shuttle bus to the employee parking lot. As Betty tried to put her suitcase on the luggage rack, her right foot hit water and slipped out from under her. That caused her left knee to buckle. She then fell backward, crushing her left foot underneath her.
Five months later, the flight attendant filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The flight attendant’s employer argued that she was not acting in the “course and scope” of her employment when she was on the shuttle bus, so she was not entitled to benefits. The judge in Betty’s workers’ compensation hearing, however, ruled in favor of the flight attendant. The judge concluded that the flight attendant was injured on her employer’s premises, that her presence on the shuttle bus was required by the nature of her job, and that her injury was caused by the condition of the bus.
The board upheld that decision, and the employer took its case to the Commonwealth Court, but Betty still prevailed. The flight attendant’s success is a useful lesson for workers when it comes to issues like exactly how broad the term “employer’s premises” is for the purposes of an award of workers’ compensation benefits.
The airline contended that it did not own or control the shuttle bus and that it did not own or control the employee parking lot at the Philadelphia airport. It also asserted that parking and transit between the airport terminal and the parking lot were not essential to its business. Based on these facts, the shuttle bus could not legally be part of the airline’s premises, it argued.
The court explained that, while it was true that the airline did not control or own the lot or the bus, ownership and control were not the key factors in deciding “employer’s premises” for a workers’ compensation case. The correct focus was whether the employer, through the tasks it assigned to employees, caused the area to be used by its employees to do their duties. A customary means of access can be part of an “employer’s premises,” even if owned and controlled by others, if it is integral to the employer’s business. Anyone who’s ever been at a major commercial airport knows that large parking lots (some of which are located far from the terminal) and shuttle buses to carry people between the lots and the terminal are a very customary means of accessing the terminal.
This made the parking lot and the bus so essential to a flight attendant’s job that they qualified as part of the airline’s “premises,” and Betty was entitled to receive her award. While all of this technical language about “course and scope” of employment and employer’s premises may seem intimidating, what you, as a worker, should take away is the fact that, if you were not on property owned or controlled by your employer when you got hurt, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot recover an award of workers’ compensation benefits.
If you have been hurt on the job, make sure that you get the fullest award that the law allows for you. Reach out to the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our team can provide you with the understandable advice and strong advocacy that your case deserves.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266.