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Recent Appellate Court Decisions
In Allenbaugh v. IWCC, 3-15-0284WC (3rd Dist. 2016) the Workers’ Compensation Commission Division of the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court which had confirmed an IWCC finding that the petitioner’s injuries were not compensable.
In Allenbaugh the petitioner was a police officer. He was ordered to report to police headquarters for a mandatory training session. The mandatory training session was scheduled for a time outside of his usual shift. It had been snowing on the date of accident and there was ice and slush on the road. An oncoming vehicle crossed the centerline and forced the petitioner into a ditch. The petitioner suffered neck and back injuries.
After the arbitration trial, the arbitrator found the petitioner suffered a work injury. The arbitrator noted the petitioner was ordered to perform mandatory training outside his usual duty hours. He had to bring various items of police gear to the training session with him. The roads were hazardous. The petitioner testified that police officers were on duty 24 hours a day.
The IWCC reversed the arbitrator’s decision. The IWCC noted that at the time of the accident, the petitioner was not responding to an emergency. The Assistant Chief of Police testified that the petitioner was not on duty at all times and had no general obligation to intervene if he observed unlawful behavior while off-duty. Commuting injuries are generally not compensable. An employee’s trip to and from work is the product of his own decision as to where he wants to live. The petitioner was not required to drive a particular route. He was not performing any activities of employment at the time of the accident. The petitioner was simply driving his personal vehicle to his normal workplace. The Circuit Court of Peoria County confirmed the IWCC decision. The petitioner appealed.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission Division of the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the denial of benefits by the IWCC and the circuit court. The employee had argued that the respondent maintained control over him and he was in the scope of his employment. The petitioner also argued that he was a traveling employee. The appellate court noted that all employees are required to go to work. The fact this petitioner was required to go to his workplace does not distinguish his situation from normal commuting. Driving in hazardous weather does not make his situation different from any other typical commuter.
The petitioner also argued that he was a traveling employee. A traveling employee is an employee whose job duties require him to travel away from the employer’s premises. Even if the petitioner is a traveling employee, the work related trip at issue must be more than a regular commute from the employee’s home to the employer’s premises. Commuting is not included in the traveling employee doctrine.
The petitioner argued that he was required to drive for much of his shift. The court noted that this was not what he was doing at the time he was injured. The fact the petitioner regularly drives as part of his duties does not bring his commute within the scope of his employment. The traveling employee doctrine is not extended to include any claimant who is involved in an accident on the way to their normal workplace while driving their personal vehicle without any additional compensation and not performing any duties incidental to their employment.
Editor's note: This decision explains the general rule that commuting injuries are not compensable. A trip from the employee's residence to a mandatory meeting at the normal workplace still a commute. Even if this petitioner were a traveling employee, his trip to his normal workplace in his personal vehicle was still a commute.