Texas State Employee Required Prior Work-From-Home Written Authorization

Edna Martinez was employed as a caseworker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Martinez suffered a fall at home on Saturday, June 9, 2001 while she was prepping for the coming Monday's court hearings. Martinez was walking across her kitchen to retrieve a pen from the other side of the kitchen when she fell. Martinez broke her shoulder and hit her head in the fall. The State Office of Risk Management (SORM) denied Martinez's claim. SORM took the position that Martinez was not injured in the course and scope of her employment, was not engaged in the furtherance of the employer's business at the time of the injury, and had not established a causal connection between her injuries and her employment.

A Division of Workers' Compensation Hearing Officer found that the injured employee was not injured in the course and scope of employment. Martinez appealed, and the Division's Appeals Panel reversed and rendered that Martinez sustained a compensable injury. SORM filed for judicial review. Both parties filed for summary judgment, and the trial court ruled in favor of SORM. Martinez appealed and the Court of Appeals issued split findings. The first Court of Appeals decision had the effect of reversing SORM's summary judgment. Both parties appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, and the Court returned the case back to the Court of Appeals for a determination as to whether a claimed statutory violation is evidence that Martinez did not sustain a compensable injury.

On remand back to the Court of Appeals, the question before the Court of Appeals was whether Martinez could be in the course and scope of her employment if working from home was prohibited by Texas state law. SORM pointed to statutory provisions in the Government Code which prohibit state employees from working from home without prior written authorization. SORM argued that Martinez was acting outside the scope of her employment by working from home without prior written authorization. Martinez replied that the statutory provisions do not apply to workers' compensation cases. The Court of Appeals agreed with SORM, concluding, "[W]e hold that sections 658.010 and 659.018 of the Government Code limit a state employee's scope of employment by mandating that the state employee obtain prior written authorization before working at home. Accordingly, assuming Martinez failed to obtain prior written approval from her supervisor before working at home, her injury is not compensable."

Source: The Law Office of Ricky D. Green, PLLC

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