Your Zone of Employment Does NOT Begin in the Walkway to Quicken Loans Arena.

Even those of you who aren’t basketball fans are probably aware that, even with Kevin Love’s best efforts, the “post-Lebron” Cleveland Cavaliers have had a tough go of things this season.  However, the Cavs got a win off the basketball court recently, and the case gives us a chance to review a concept in workers’ compensation law known as “the zone of employment”.

So, what exactly is the zone of employment again?  Under Ohio law the “coming and going rule” prevents employees who are injured going to work or coming home from work from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.   As with most things legal, there are exceptions.  The “coming and going rule” does not prevent an employee from receiving workers’ compensation benefits if:

  1. the injury occurs within the “zone of employment” (we’ll talk about that one today);
  2. the employment creates a “special hazard”;
  3. there is a causal connection between the employee’s injury and employment based on the “totality of circumstances” surrounding the accident (we’ll talk about that one today as well); or
  4. the employee is performing a “special mission” for the employer.

Under the “zone of employment” test, an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an injury sustained in a location where the employer had control of the conditions, and the employee had no option but to take that route to get to his or her actual job site.  The “zone of employment” test is based upon the concept that a claim is appropriate where an employee is injured near his or her workplace, in an area which presents hazards that are particular to the employment.

The courts look particularly closely at how near the injury site was to the employment premises; and at the degree of control the employer exercised over the injury site.  The zone of employment extends to a parking lot owned and under the supervision of the employer.  It also extends to areas not owned by the employer, but which the employer maintains or controls.  Courts have also held that the employer does not need to have actually been in control of the area where the injury occurred, if there was limited access to the job site.

In Parrish v. Cavaliers Holdings, LLC, which was decided by the 8th Appellate District in January of this year, Parrish was employed as a “guest service representative” at the Cavaliers home court, Quicken Loans Arena.  Parrish was walking to the arena on his way to work and was injured after he slipped and fell on the floor in an enclosed, indoor walkway.  Cavaliers Holding, LLC provided Parrish with a parking pass that allowed him to park for free in a lot connected to the arena by the walkway.

Parrish argued that the injury occurred within his zone of employment because he had to use the parking lot and the walkway to reach the arena.  The Court rejected that argument, because the employer did not require Parrish to use the lot adjacent to the walkway, it merely provided Parrish with a free parking pass.  The Court also noted that the employer did not own or have control over the walkway.

Parrish also argued that his injury should be covered by workers’ compensation under the “totality of the circumstances test”.  Under that test, courts look to the totality of the facts and circumstances to determine whether an injury was work related.  Those factors include, but are not limited to:

  1. the proximity of the scene of the accident to the place of employment;
  2. the degree of control the employer had over the scene of the accident;
  3. the benefit the employer received from the injured employee’s presence at the scene of the accident.

In Parrish’s case, the Court found that the employer did not benefit from his presence at the scene of the accident, so the “totality of the circumstances” test also did not make the injury work related.

So, despite going 19 and 57 this season, the Cavs did get a win in the courtroom.  Let’s hope they have similar luck in the next NBA draft.

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