FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Charles H. McLemore Jr., for appellant.
White Law Firm, by: Clinton M. White, Jr., and C. Michael
White, for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, JUDGE
a workers'-compensation appeal in which the employer,
appellant Arkansas Secretary of State (SOS), asserts that the
decision to award benefits to the employee, appellee Ruby
Young, is not supported by substantial evidence. SOS argues
on appeal that the Workers' Compensation Commission
(Commission) committed reversible error by finding (1) that
Young was providing employment services at the time of her
alleged injury; and (2) that there were objective medical
findings to support the existence of a work-related injury.
reviewing a decision of the Commission, we view the evidence
and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the
light most favorable to the findings of the Commission.
Evans v. Bemis Co., Inc., 2010 Ark.App. 65, 374
S.W.3d 51. This court must affirm the decision of the
Commission if it is supported by substantial evidence.
Id. Substantial evidence is that evidence which a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion of the Commission. Id. We reverse the
Commission's decision only if we are convinced that
fair-minded persons could not have reached the same
conclusion with the same facts before them. Id.
Questions regarding the credibility of witnesses and the
weight to be given to their testimony are within the
exclusive province of the Commission. Wall Farms, LLC v.
Hulsey, 2017 Ark.App. 624, 534 S.W.3d 771.
facts of this case are largely undisputed. Young is an
administrative assistant in the Capitol Facilities Office for
SOS. Her office is located in the basement of the Arkansas
State Capitol building, and her work hours are from 8:00 a.m.
to 5:00 p.m. Young's job requires that she prepare
maintenance and repair work orders for the Capitol building,
its associated grounds, and the Capitol Hill Apartments.
Young's primary tasks at work are to answer telephone
calls, check emails for work requests, and assign the
appropriate person to the task.
morning of January 18, 2017, at approximately 7:45 a.m.,
Young arrived for work and parked in her assigned parking
spot; it was raining. Young walked through an outside door
leading to the Capitol basement. This door required a key
card to gain entry. Young wiped her feet on a rug and then
slipped and fell as she stepped off the rug and onto the
marble floor. She hit the floor with her lower back, more to
the left side. She got up and went to her office, and she
began to experience low-back and hip pain five or six hours
later. She reported this injury to her employer. Young sought
treatment at UAMS the following Monday (five days after the
fall) and x-rays taken at UAMS revealed that Young had
"significant soft tissue swelling" in her lumbar
spine. A hip injury was ruled out, but Young was diagnosed
with a lumbar sprain and sciatica and has undergone
conservative treatment for ongoing back problems.
filed a claim for workers'-compensation benefits. SOS
controverted Young's claim in its entirety. The primary
issue was whether Young was performing employment services at
the time she fell. A hearing was conducted on this claim.
supervisor, Keith Diemer, testified that their office is
responsible for the day-to-day operations of maintenance,
including electrical, plumbing, heat and air conditioning,
custodial care, lawn care, and all the exterior and interior
upkeep for the Capitol building, its grounds, and the
apartments where legislators live. Diemer testified that
Young has a state-issued cell phone so that she can be
reached if she is away from her desk and immediate assistance
is needed; her desk phone can be transferred to her cell
phone for that purpose. Diemer stated that Young has no work
duties outside her regular office hours but that he would
expect Young to do something immediately if someone advised
her at 7:50 a.m. that there was a problem such as flooding in
a bathroom. Diemer had experienced people approaching him as
soon as he exited his vehicle, so he understood that this
might happen to Young. Diemer was "pretty sure"
that Young had received maintenance requests before 8:00 a.m.
when she was in her office.
testified that she is often approached by someone requesting
maintenance as she walks from her car to her office. She did
not recall anyone talking to her about work-related issues on
January 18, 2017, before she reached her office, but she
remembered that other state employees saw her fall. Young
explained that she fell onto her backside, she reported this
injury to her employer that day, and her low back did not
begin to hurt a lot until a few hours after the fall. Young
testified about the course of her medical care. She submitted
emails and medical records to substantiate her claim.
administrative law judge (ALJ) found that Young had presented
objective medical findings "at least including, but not
necessarily limited to, 'significant soft tissue
swelling' noted in the report of an x-ray of Ms.
Young's back performed at UAMS on January 23, 2017."
The ALJ found Young's testimony persuasive that she had
no back pain before January 18; that her back began hurting
later that day; that she emailed a coworker that afternoon to
report having hip pain in the same area; and that she
reported to the UAMS emergency room that she had experienced
increasing back pain since she slipped and fell on a marble
floor five days earlier.
also found that Young had been performing employment services
when she was injured because she was directly or indirectly
advancing SOS's interests at the time she fell. The ALJ
found that Diemer's testimony corroborated Young's
assertion that she was subject to receiving work requests
before 8:00 a.m. and before she reached her desk. The ALJ
examined several appellate cases discussing when a claimant
is or is not performing employment services and found that
Young's situation was most akin to the claimant in
Foster v. Express Personnel Services, 93 Ark.App.
496, 222 S.W.3d 218 (2006).
Foster, our court held that an employee may be
compensated for an injury that occurs even before she reaches
her work station or before she is "on the clock" if
she is performing a service that is required by her employer
and is directly or indirectly advancing her employer's
interests. Foster, a temporary clerical worker, was injured
in the service-bay area of McClarty Auto Mall at 7:50 a.m.,
ten minutes before her official work day began. The
Foster opinion noted that she would have been
required to perform her specific job duties while en route to
her designated job site and was expected to advance her
employer's interests away from her desk, even if Foster
had not actually been engaged in work duties when she was