Covid has changed our lives in so many ways in the last two years. When it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation law, aside from a new injury that didn’t exist years before, Covid has led to many people working from home. All State in Northbrook actually sold their huge campus because most workers are remote now.
Of course some workers were remote before March of 2020. And others were and still are working from both an office space and home.
It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but you can actually be walking down the driveway of your house, slip on ice and hurt yourself and have an Illinois workers’ compensation case. That’s exactly what happened to a restaurant worker whose case was recently decided.
The injured worker was actually the owner of the restaurant. He didn’t have a large office space at work, so he kept a lot of work materials at home. He would regularly travel back and forth from the restaurant to his house to pick items up.
On the day of the accident, he went home to get papers needed by his accountant for quarterly tax purposes. He also was grabbing some space heaters to be used at the restaurant as the furnace had gone out. When he got out of his car, he slipped on the icy driveway and seriously hurt his back.
As would be expected, the insurance company fought this case because the accident didn’t happen at the usual physical work space. They fought it even though the accident was witnessed by the general manager of the restaurant.
A lot of times insurance companies look at cases and act like they all have to fit neatly in to a little box. When they are a little different, they seem to use that as their cue to deny benefits. This is how insurance companies make billions a year.
While a chain restaurant like Olive Garden wouldn’t be expected to have a worker storing items at their home, this was a small, mom and pop type place. Having worked in these types of restaurants in the past, I know from experience that is how many of them are run. It’s not unusual for a restaurant owner to want to maximize space for the actual operation and as a result have limited office space. Sometimes that means overflow stuff gets stored at home. Other times you don’t want to leave financial documents sitting around the restaurant or prefer to do it at home where it’s quieter.
The reality is that your home can be an extension of your office. And when you regularly go home to retrieve documents for work, you are doing that for the benefit of the business. When you are injured during that process, that injury should be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
I’m glad that common sense prevailed in this situation even though the injury location was unique. Had he just been going home to say hi to his kids or have a bite to eat, it wouldn’t have been a case. But he was doing work so it was. An insurance company wouldn’t question an injury while retrieving documents from a storage room at the office. In this case the office storage room was at home, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a work space. I love it when the courts get it right.