Attending Monthly Meeting Not a “Special Mission” – Workers’ Comp Benefits Denied

On many occasions, we have discussed whether an injury was suffered in the “scope and course” of employment, thus falling under the coverage of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Ordinarily, the commute to or from the workplace is not within the scope and course of the job (known as the “coming and going rule”). Like any good rule, however, there are exceptions. Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed one of these exceptions to the rule.

In Simko v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (United States Steel Corporation-Edgar Thomson Works), the injured worker was coming to a monthly safety meeting when he was involved in a serious car accident (talk about irony). As a result of the car accident, he sustained a brain injury. The issue in the case was whether this was merely on his commute to work, and not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, or whether this was a “special mission,” one of the exceptions to the coming and going rule.

As we have discussed before, the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) is the ultimate Finder of Fact. Here, the WCJ found that attending the safety meeting was a special mission, and furthering the affairs of the employer, and that, then, the injured worker was entitled to workers’ comp benefits. The Claim Petition was granted. This was appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB), who reversed, finding that this was merely the injured worker commuting to work.

The injured worker appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, who started by noting, quoting from a prior case:

As a general rule, an injury received by an employee while traveling to and from work is not compensable. However, such an injury is compensable if one of the following exceptions to the “coming and going rule” exist: (1) the employment contract included transportation to and from work; (2) the employee has no fixed place of work; (3) the employee is on a special mission; or (4) special circumstances are such that the employee was furthering the business of the employer.”

The Court then added, also citing to a previous case, “Where attending meetings is part of an employee’s regular work duties, traveling to or from such a meeting is not a special mission.” In his testimony, found credible by the WCJ, the injured worker admitted that this was a regular monthly meeting that he was required, by his job, to attend. Further, the injured worker agreed this was considered part of his shift, and he was paid his regular hourly wage for the time of the meetings. Finding the credibility determinations rendered by the WCJ supported the denial of the Claim Petition, as found by the WCAB, the decision of the WCAB was affirmed.