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Injured Wal-Mart workers not eligible for state benefits: Wyo. high court


CHEYENNE, Wyo.—Two injured employees who received benefits from a private workers compensation fund operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are not eligible for benefits under Wyoming's Workers' Compensation Act, the Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled.

The employees sustained injuries in unrelated accidents, but both worked at a Wal-Mart distribution warehouse, according to the Friday ruling in Workers' Compensation Claim of Timothy Araguz vs. State Ex. Rel. Wyoming Workers Safety and Compensation Division.

Meanwhile, the Wyoming Constitution requires that all businesses classified as “extrahazardous” contribute to a state workers comp fund. But Wal-Mart's Wyoming stores and distribution center are not classified as “extrahazardous” under state law because Wal-Mart's primary business is retail and not warehouse operations, court records show.

After the two employees received benefits under Wal-Mart’s private fund, they sought benefits from the state under its workers comp law. But the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division denied their request, and the Office of Administrative Hearings confirmed the denial because they were not employed in an occupation requiring coverage under the law.

In their appeal to the state Supreme Court seeking benefits under the state law, the claimants argued that the division incorrectly misclassified Wal-Mart. They argued that a proper classification should be based on an employee’s activities and not on the employer’s primary business.

But the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the division appropriately assigned Wal-Mart a classification based on its primary activity and revenue stream in the state.

It said that under Wyoming law, employer classifications are determined by the employer’s activity and not the workers’.

“It is of no consequence that individual employees may have been performing extrahazardous activities,” the high court ruled in rejecting their claim.