Here’s the scenario: An employee — while on the job — drinks a small bottle of whiskey and more than half a fifth of vodka. Then he’s injured in a fall at the worksite. Should he collect benefits? 

An administrative law judge actually said “yes” — awarding him workers’ compensation benefits.

But on appeal, the world seemed to make sense again, as a labor commission appeals board reversed the judge’s ruling.

Here’s what happened

Shane Wood spent the morning painting the interior of a three-story building. In the afternoon he decided to consume copious amounts of whiskey and vodka. Then he slept in a closet for two hours.

When he woke up and exited the closet, he fell down an empty elevator shaft, injuring himself.

The administrative law judge awarded Wood workers’ comp, saying his injuries occurred at the job site during a work day.

His employer appealed and the Utah Labor Commission Appeals Board reversed the decision. It ruled Wood wasn’t fulfilling work duties and wasn’t engaged in work activity when he was injured.

Next, the case went to the Utah Court of Appeals, where Wood made two arguments:

  • He argued his nap after drinking on the job didn’t constitute a departure from the course of his employment, and
  • Even if he did leave the course of his employment during his nap, he returned to work when he woke up.

The court didn’t buy either one. It said taking a nap was a departure from the course of his employment, and there was no reasonable basis to conclude that in the short time between when he woke up and fell down the elevator shaft that he’d resumed working.

Result: No benefits for Wood.

Cite: Wood v. Karr Painting and Decoration, Inc.


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