pGavelAndLawbook_10337597_sThe Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that an injured police officer is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even though he was injured at home before his shift started. The case, Bolingbrook Police Department vs. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, centered around a police officer who injured his back while getting his work bag out of the trunk of his car.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission had previously ruled that the officer was entitled to benefits. The police department then appealed the ruling in Appellate Court.

Donald Fohrman, a Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer, believes that both the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Appellate Court got the decision right. “Some employers want it both ways,” he explained. “They want to send work home with an employee, but then they don’t want to be responsible when that work leads to injury.”

The police officer was responsible for the security of the equipment bag and was required to keep it in his possession. The police officer said he kept the bag with him because he felt the bag was most secure at his home. However, the police department claimed that the officer had the option of storing the bag in a locker at the police station.

“It comes down to what the officer was required to do,” Mr. Fohrman suggested. “He was required to be responsible for the safety and security of the bag. If that equipment fell into the wrong hands, he would be liable. He may have had the option of using the locker, but the department let him choose the security method that he felt most appropriate.”

In the 3-2 ruling, the court stated that the loading and unloading of the bag was a necessary part of the job, meaning that the officer was entitled to benefits. The ruling could mean that any worker who takes some form of work home could be entitled to benefits for at-home injuries.

“If employers don’t want to open themselves to that kind of liability,” commented Mr. Fohrman, “then they should make sure all work stays in the place of employment.”

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