In its 55th opinion this year, the Utah Supreme Court clarified that worker’s compensation applies to an employee who is injured not only on the employer’s premises, but also on the premises of another “in such proximity and relation” to the employer’s premises as to be “in practical effect” a part of the employer’s premises. In Intercontinental Hotels Group v. Labor Commission, 2019 UT 55, the Utah Supreme Court in early September considered an appeal from a Utah Labor Commission ruling affirming the finding of an administrative law judge that an employee’s injury on an adjacent parking lot was compensable under Utah’s worker’s compensation system. In this case, an employee of a hotel had parked in a parking lot next to the place of her work where the hotel had a non-exclusive right to have employees park and where this employee had been directed to park. The Hotel did not own the parking lot. While walking to her job after parking, the employee tripped and injured herself, requiring surgeries and an amputation. The Hotel claimed that the “going and coming” exception to traditional worker’s compensation analysis applied, thus excluding the employee from coverage. While Utah law embraces the “going and coming” exception, the Utah Supreme Court here held that the exception does not come into play unless the injury does not occur on the employer’s premises. This begged the question and gave the Utah Supreme Court a rare opportunity to cite a 1928 decision of the United States Supreme Court affirming a Utah Supreme Court decision. Citing Bountiful Brick Co. v. Giles, 276 U.S. 154 (1928), the court reaffirmed that if an employee is injured “while passing, with the express or implied consent of the employer, to or from his work by a way over the employer’s premises, or over those of another in such proximity and relation as to be in practical effect a part of the employer’s premises,” the injury is compensable (emphasis added). That language provided the Intercontinental Hotels court with an operative definition of an employer’s premises for the purpose of the workers’ compensation statute, and thus affirm the Labor Commission.
The warning here for owners and contractors is that even if an employee is not parking on property you own, if they have been directed to park in an area with sufficient “proximity and relation” to your place of work, any injuries sustained there are likely to come within Utah’s worker’s compensation statutes.