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Case Update: In the Course of Employment > Employee's Home as a Work Site

In Schwan Food Co. v. Ryan Frederick, the Court of Special Appeals held that injuries sustained by an employee en route from the employee's home work site to another work-related site may arise out of and in the course of employment. The Court adopted a three-part test to be used in determining whether a home qualifies as a work site. The three-part test examines:

  1. The quantity and regularity of work performed at home;
  2. The continuing presence of work equipment at home; and
  3. Special circumstances of the particular employment that make it necessary and not merely personally convenient to work at home.

In regard to the third prong, there must also be evidence that the employer acquiesced to the employee regularly using his or her home as a work site, or reasonably should have known the employee was regularly using the home as a work site.

Ryan Frederick worked as a customer service representative for Minnesota based Schwan Food Company, which had no local offices in Maryland. His job entailed traveling in his personal car to various grocery stores throughout Maryland to meet Schwan's delivery drivers and receive inventory deliveries for each of his accounts. On January 28, 2016, while still at home, Mr. Frederick used his employer-provided handheld computer to download his route for the day. His plan was to drop his son off at daycare on the way to his first account, a Walmart in Ellicott City. Unfortunately, Mr. Frederick slipped on black ice on the sidewalk by his car in front of his home and suffered injury to his right leg.

Mr. Frederick sought workers' compensation benefits, but Schwan and its insurer denied coverage on the basis that he had begun a personal errand (dropping off his son for daycare) at the time of the accidental injury. The Commission agreed, finding that Mr. Frederick did not sustain an accidental injury arising out of an in the course of his employment. Mr. Frederick petitioned for judicial review in the Circuit Court, and his case proceeded to trial, where the Court concluded as a matter of law that Mr. Frederick had been working from his "home office" before he set out to his first account and that the injury he sustained arose out of and in the course of his employment. Schwan timely appealed the Circuit Court's decision to the Court of Special Appeals.

Applying the three-part test to the case of Mr. Frederick, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that material factual questions remained, as the evidence did not permit but one conclusion as to whether Mr. Fredericks injury occurred in the course of his employment. and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion.

A copy of the Opinion can be found at: https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/cosa/2019/1289s17.pdf

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