The Commission Awarded Benefits To Claimant Who Was Attacked While Walking Down Corridor On Her Way To Work
Claimant, a circuit court clerk in defendant’s micrographics department, was walking down a corridor leading to her office when she was attacked by an unknown individual. At the time of the incident, she was 20 feet away from the office door. She described the assailant as a man with dirty hair and wearing several layers of clothing. The office was located in an underground concourse level of a building. The concourse level was accessible from four separate directions. Claimant’s office was located in the east corridor 100 feet off the main pedway and served as the only entrance to her workplace. The entire pedway, including the corridor in which claimant’s office was located, was accessible to the general public. Claimant estimated that thousands of people traversed the pedway every day. Her office could be accessed only by use of an ADT key card, and the two restroom doors adjacent to her office were not open to the public. She testified that there had been an increase in the number of homeless people in the concourse area due to the closing of a nearby street. The general manager for the building testified that a separate property management company was responsible for the operations, management and control of the building as agent for the owner. The arbitrator denied benefits, finding that claimant failed to prove that her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.
The Commission reversed, holding that the evidence clearly supported a finding that claimant’s injury occurred while in the course of employment. Although the concourse had several access points and was open to the general public, the east corridor was the exclusive means for claimant to enter and exit her workplace. Also, the attack occurred shortly before her starting time within 20 to 25 feet of the office, which was locked to all but defendant’s employees.
The Commission further held that the evidence also supported a finding that claimant was exposed to risk of injury greater than that of the general public as a result of her employment. The Commission found the instant case similar to County of Cook v. Industrial Commission in which the Appellate Court found claimant was exposed to an increased risk due to the employee’s required regular use of the premises, an area where she was likely to encounter persons who would attack her, as evidenced by the presence of security personnel. The Commission explained that the instant claimant worked in a building consisting of several courtrooms and that access to the building was secured through the use of a metal detector. Also, the property management company deemed it necessary to increase their security presence in the pedway area between 7:30 am and 9:00 am., the time when claimant was assaulted. The Commission pointed to evidence that there were several homeless people in the pedway area, that security was instructed to remove homeless people from the premises and that claimant’s description of her assailant matched that of homeless people she had previously seen in the area. The Commission concluded that claimant’s regular use of the pedway and east corridor, an area containing an increased number of homeless people and subjected to stronger than normal security measures during the time of her injury, constituted proof that she was exposed to an increased risk of injury greater than that of the general public as a result of her employment.