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“Extended Premises” Has Limitations
by Ron Davis
Are employees who are injured while walking to their cars after work still “on the job” at the time? That was a question that Virginia’s courts had to answer recently in a case involving an employee of a tenant of a Norfolk-area shopping center.
Details of the case show that the employee suffered an injury one day after she had left work and while walking in the center’s parking lot. To reach the location of her car, she had to cross a two-lane road. Once across the road, she walked toward her car parked in the front row of the lot.
But as she approached her car, she tripped over a section of uneven pavement and fell. As a result of her fall, she fractured her left foot and suffered nerve damage.
She subsequently filed for workers’ compensation lifetime benefits, arguing that she injured her foot while at work. The basis of her argument was Virginia’s “extended premises” rule, which favors an employee who is injured while using “the sole means of ingress and egress [to the workplace of] the employer.”
And a state compensation board commissioner agreed with her argument, reasoning that “going to and from a parking lot to reach and leave an employee’s immediate working area is a necessary incident to [that employee’s] employment.”
On appeal by the woman’s employer, however, the full commission disagreed with that reasoning. The commissioners noted that the parking-lot site of her injury was not part of the extended premises of her employer. They pointed out that she was not assigned a parking space and parked in any spot, as did other employees and customers of the shopping center. Nor, they added, did her employer require her to park there. She could in fact park in any location she chose.
Ruled the commissioners, “If the employer does not control the use of the parking area and does not control where its employees park, the parking lot is generally not considered part of the employer’s extended premises.”
Moreover, the commissioners noted, “A parking lot is not the equivalent of a sidewalk entry adjacent to a workplace, which is in practical effect a part of an employer’s premises.” (Newberry v. Peebles Department Store, 2005 WL 2493399 [Va.App,])
Decision: September 2005
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