On July 7, 2010, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Ardoin v. CLECO Power, L.L.C. The Louisiana Supreme Court noted that an employee's exclusive remedy against his employer for injuries suffered in the course and scope of his employment is provided by the Workers' Compensation Act. Louisiana worker’s compensation law provides that compensation coverage is not automatically and instantaneously terminated by the firing or quitting of an employee. Instead, the employee is deemed to be within the course of employment for a reasonable period of time during the winding up his affairs and leaving the premises. The question before the Court was whether Mr. Ardoin’s injuries occurred within a reasonable time of his termination.
The Ardoin Court found that the Third Circuit correctly applied Louisiana jurisprudence that holds that an employee who is injured during a reasonable period of time needed for winding up his affairs is considered to be within the course and scope of employment. The Ardoin Court, however, disagreed with the Third Circuit that Mr. Ardoin’s accident occurred beyond a reasonable period of time. The Court held that the relevant factors to be considered in deciding whether Ardoin’s injury occurred within a “reasonable period of time to wind up his affairs” were: (1) the purpose that prompted him to return to work; and, (2) the relationship between that purpose and the conditions surrounding his work. Because Mr. Ardoin was on Cleco’s premises to clean out his office with Cleco’s permission, after his termination, and at a time imposed by Cleco, the court concluded that this was a reasonable amount of time. Thus, he was deemed to be within the course and scope of his broadly defined “employment” with Cleco. Accordingly, he could recover for his injuries under the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation scheme.
Take-Away: Whether an employee is acting within the course and scope of employment is not always clear, especially in post-termination settings, and may turn on the employer’s control over the time and manner of the winding-up of post employment activities.
This article was co-authored by, McDonald Provosty, an associate at Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore LLC.