UPDATE: PA Supreme Court Rules Flight Attendant Injured on Airport Shuttle Bus Entitled to Workers’ Comp Benefits
Last year, we blogged about a flight attendant who was injured when she slipped and fell aboard a shuttle bus at Philadelphia International Airport. The Commonwealth Court ruled that the flight attendant was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits notwithstanding her employer’s arguments that her transit was not part of her employment. Her employer, US Airways, then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
On Nov. 20, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Commonwealth Court, finding that the flight attendant was injured in the scope of her employment, thus allowing her to keep her workers’ compensation benefits.
Employee Shuttle Bus
As a brief recap of the case, in US Airways v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bockelman), a Philadelphia-based flight attendant drove her own vehicle to the airport and parked in one of two designated employee parking lots. The lots were owned, operated, and maintained by the City of Philadelphia/Division of Aviation for the use of all airport employees. After an employee parks, a shuttle bus transports the employee from the employee parking lot to the airport terminal (and vice versa).
After working a one-day trip from Philadelphia to Miami and back, the flight attendant boarded the shuttle bus and attempted to lift her suitcase onto the luggage racks. While hoisting her suitcase, she stepped in water on the floor, which caused her right foot to slide out from underneath her. Her left knee buckled, causing her to fall backward and crush her left foot under her. The flight attendant felt something rip in her left foot.
The workers’ compensation judge awarded benefits to the flight attendant, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and the Commonwealth Court subsequently affirmed the award. US Airways appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision
In ruling that transit via the shuttle bus to and from the airport terminal was part of the flight attendant’s employment, the high court reasoned:
[The flight attendant] used the airport parking lot and shuttle service to enter and exit her workplace. As part of US Airways’ business relationship with the airport, US Airways clearly was aware that the Division of Aviation would make employee parking available to the airline’s employees.
The court noted that US Airways was obligated under its collective bargaining agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to reimburse flight attendants for the cost of airport parking. Additionally, US Airways was required to (and did) obtain badges — which could then be used to enter the Division of Aviation’s employee parking lots — for all of its Philadelphia-based flight attendants.
“Given these facts, we have little difficulty concluding that the parking lot and shuttle were connected with, and thus integral to, US Airways’ business operations at the Philadelphia International Airport,” the court wrote.
The flight attendant will keep her benefits. The decision is good news for all workers at Philadelphia International Airport ― as well as many workers throughout the state ― who rely on a shuttle bus to take them to and from their work site.
We note that whether an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained commuting to and from a parking area hinges upon the specific facts of each case and requires detailed legal analysis as to the employer’s business connection (or lack thereof) with the area. As always, if you have been injured in a work-related accident, we recommend that you consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can ensure that you receive all benefits to which you are legally entitled.