Work Injury in NY Found Not Subject to PA Workers’ Comp

You probably knew that almost any injury at work which takes place in PA can lead to benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (other than those employees who work for the Federal Government, U.S. Military, or in the maritime or railroad industries). But, did you know that, under certain circumstances, one can receive PA workers’ comp benefits for an injury which takes place in a State other than Pennsylvania?

This is called “extraterritorial jurisdiction,” and can happen when one of three situations apply. Either the injured worker’s employment is “principally localized” in Pennsylvania, the injured worker is working under a contract of hire made in PA in
employment not principally localized in any state, or the injured worker is working under a contract of hire made PA in employment principally localized in another state whose
workmen’s compensation law would not apply.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently dealt with an extraterritorial jurisdiction case in the matter of Greenawalt v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bristol Environmental, Inc.). The injured worker was a union laborer who worked jobs for a limited period of time, and then would be laid off. One of these jobs was for a mall project in NY. A couple of months into this job, the injured worker was going out to start his car in the morning (in NY), to drive into work, when he slipped on ice and fell, injuring his lumbar spine (the focus of this case was whether the PA Workers’ Compensation Act even applied to his case; had the injured worker been successful in this part, he still would have had to prove he was actually in the “scope and course” of his job at the time of the injury).

The injured worker filed a Claim Petition in Pennsylvania, seeking benefits under this State’s workers’ comp laws. After taking evidence, the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) denied the Claim, finding that Pennsylvania had no jurisdiction over this injury. Specifically, though the contract of hire may have been made in PA, the work was “principally localized” in NY. With the injured worker failing to show that NY workers’ comp laws would not apply to this case, there was no part of the PA law allowing jurisdiction here. The decision of the WCJ was affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).

Upon further appeal, the decision was also affirmed by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Though the injured worker did perform work for this same employer previously, with many of the jobs taking place in Pennsylvania, the Court found that layoffs in between the jobs for this employer (and the fact the injured worker did jobs for two other employers in between the jobs for this employer) made that connection too distant. In other words, said the Court, the injured worker failed to have a “continuous employment relationship” with this employer. So, the Court found that, looking solely at this job, the employment was localized in NY, as the WCJ found. The job was correctly found to be localized in NY, despite the employer having no office in that State. The fact that the employer controlled a job site in that State, where the injured worker reported each day, was sufficient to qualify.

Taking these findings and looking at the law, said the Court, the WCJ was correct in concluding that Pennsylvania had no jurisdiction over this injury.