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Jurisdiction! Yes, It Still Matters!

Hello dear readers!

How often do you deal with the issue of jurisdiction?  It’s a rare bird, to be sure, and why? Most cases include injuries sustained in California, and that’s typically enough to grant jurisdiction.  Labor Code section 5305 holds that the DWC and the WCAB have jurisdiction over any case where the injury occurred outside of California, but the contract of hire was made in California.  (Please note, dear readers, that the clause “where the injured employee is a resident of this state” was found unconstitutional in Alaska Packers Assn. v. IAC, but, for some reason, the language remains in the labor code.)

Once in a while, though, it does come up, and, with such frequency, that every claims examiner and defense attorney should have a mental warning bell whenever one of them non-Californians comes round these parts and wants to get a fixin’ to workers compensatin’!  We don’t take kindly to such antics around here!

The issue came up in the matter of Walkerv. Petrochem Insulation, Inc.  The injured workers sustained an injurious exposure while working in Utah, but was hired in Georgia via e-mail.  The contract was signed in Georgia, scanned and e-mailed back to the employer’s office in Utah.  Slam dunk, right?

Not according to the applicant – the employer has a presence in California, and copies of the signed contract were eventually forwarded to the California offices.  Applicant was required to join a union based in California and the pay stubs originated in California as well.  In a world of e-mails flying through the internet, what is the actual place of employment?

Well, the WCJ put emphasis on some of the other facts: applicant’s supervisor was in Utah when he e-mailed him the contract and received a signed copy back.  Furthermore, applicant did no work in California, but only in Utah.

Ultimately, the WCJ held that applicant failed to carry the burden of showing that California had Jurisdiction, and the WCAB agreed.

But why go to such great lengths to get California benefits?  After all, why not seek out benefits where the injury occurred?  Surely, California is not out of pace with what the rest of the Union is providing to injured workers… right?

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