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Injuries sustained by a housekeeper who fell in the lobby on her way to retrieve her lunch are not compensable, the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Division II in Little Rock held on Wednesday.
In Rodriguez-Gonzalez v. Jamestown Health and Rehab LLC, a three-judge panel unanimously affirmed an Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission decision that held that the employee was not performing job duties at the time of her injury.
Alma Rodriguez worked as a housekeeper for Arkansas-based Jamestown Health and Rehab LLC. On June 9, 2017, she said she was picking up trash in the lobby when she slipped and fell on a wet floor and sustained injuries to her neck, right shoulder, right hip, right ankle and right knee.
She contended that at the time of her injury, she had cleaning equipment with her and was helping an employee-in-training. After her fall, she continued to work at her assigned hall, but her pain worsened and she sought medical attention. Her employer said that Ms. Rodriguez was on her lunch break and crossing through the lobby to her vehicle to retrieve food in her car at the time of her fall.
The company does provide employees with a 30-minute lunch break, and that those who plan to leave for lunch are instructed to clock out, whereas those who are remaining on the grounds do not need to clock out but have the time automatically deducted from their hours worked.
The company said Ms. Rodriguez’s housekeeping assignments do not include cleaning the lobby, and her supervisor that surveillance showed that she was walking to the front door with no equipment at the time of her fall. The recording, however, was deleted automatically after two weeks by the surveillance system.
An administrative law judge held that Ms. Rodriguez failed to establish a compensable injury because she was not performing work at the time of her fall, and the commission affirmed and adopted the administrative judge’s opinion.
Ms. Rodriguez appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the commission’s decision.
Ms. Rodriguez argued that the nature of the job — which involves assisting the elderly — means that she was on call at all times and, therefore, even if she was retrieving her lunch, she was still on the clock. However, the court noted that she had informed human resources that she had been going to get food in her car following the incident, and that multiple people testified that she was walking toward the front door with no cleaning equipment at the time of her incident. Although there are contradictions in the evidence, the appellate court found that substantial evidence supported the commission’s decision that Ms. Rodriguez failed to establish a compensable injury because she was not performing employment services at the time of the accident.
The Arkansas Senate is considering a bill that would establish an optional alternative system outside of the state’s workers compensation system to finance and administer benefits for injured workers.