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Pueblo County v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of State of Colorado

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

May 18, 2017

Pueblo County, Colorado; and County Technical Services, Inc., Petitioners,
v.
Industrial Claim Appeals Office of the State of Colorado; and Mary Rodriguez, Respondents.

         Industrial Claim Appeals Office of the State of Colorado WC No. 4-911-673

          Dworkin, Chambers, Williams, York, Benson & Evans, P.C., Mary B. Pucelik, Denver, Colorado, for Petitioner

          No Appearance for Respondent Industrial Claim Appeals Office Michael W. Seckar, P.C., Lawrence D. Saunders, Pueblo, Colorado, for Respondent Mary Rodriguez

          Booras and Fox, JJ., concur.

          ROMÁN JUDGE

         ¶ 1 This appeal presents a workers' compensation question of first impression in Colorado. Is an injury sustained by a union officer during attendance at a union meeting to review an employer's proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act of Colorado (Act), sections 8-40-101 to 8-47-209, C.R.S. 2016? Applying the mutual benefit doctrine, we conclude, in the context of this case, that the answer is yes.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Claimant, Mary Rodriguez, was the president of the local union. She worked for Pueblo County (employer) in the Housing and Human Services Department. Membership is required for workers in a "bargaining unit" and union dues are deducted from workers' paychecks, but participation in meetings is voluntary.

         ¶ 3 On December 11, 2012, claimant stayed after work for a union meeting. The meeting was held immediately after claimant clocked out for the day and took place in a conference room in the building in which she worked. Employer does not pay workers for the time spent in union activities, but it makes conference rooms in county buildings available for union meetings.

         ¶ 4 The purpose of the meeting was to review and make any necessary changes to the new collective bargaining agreement that was being negotiated. No one in management attended the meeting.

         ¶ 5 After the meeting ended, claimant walked to the adjacent parking lot where she normally parked at work. Claimant opened her car door, reached in to place a few items on the seat, turned around to get into the car, and slipped on ice. She fell, hitting the frame of the car door and injuring her shoulder, wrist, elbow, and shin.

         ¶ 6 Claimant filed a workers' compensation claim for her medical expenses. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied and dismissed the claim, concluding that claimant "was not in the course and scope of her employment at the time of her injury." In doing so, the ALJ pointed out that "as a general rule, union activities are personal and, therefore, if a worker is injured while participating in a union meeting, the claim is not compensable."

         ¶ 7 The Industrial Claim Appeals Office Panel (Panel) disagreed with the ALJ, concluding that claimant's union activities were "sufficiently incidental" to her work "as to be properly considered as arising out of and in the course of employment." The Panel also stated that, "assuming arguendo, that the claimant was required to prove a benefit to the employer . . . the claimant met that burden here."

         ¶ 8 Accordingly, the Panel determined that claimant's injury occurred in the course and scope of her employment and arose out of her employment. It thus remanded the ...


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