Course & Scope Considerations For A Growing, Remote Workforce
I. Introduction (5 minutes)
As the Oklahoma workforce becomes more mobile, working remotely from a physical office,
the clear lines of course and scope employment activities become more blurred and less
absolute. Consideration should be given to the potential implications for workers’
compensation policies and practices with a growing workforce unbound to an employer’s
physical premises. With more employees accessing the physical office via internet, what
are the current parameters of course and scope employment activities potentially covered
under Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Law? This seminar considers the historical
concept of course and scope, recent interpretation of the concept by the Oklahoma
Supreme Court and the future of this concept in a growing cyberspace.
II. Current Oklahoma Work Comp Requirements For Compensability (10 minutes)
A. Compensable injury- Damage or harm to the physical structure of the body caused solely as the
result of either an accident, cumulative trauma or occupational disease arising out of the course
and scope of employment. 85A O.S. § 2(9)(a) [effective 2/1/14]
B. Course & Scope- An activity of any kind or character for which the employee was hired and that
relates to and derives from the work, business, trade or profession of an employer, and is
performed by an employee in the furtherance of the affairs or business of an employer. The
term includes activities conducted on the premises of an employer or at other locations
designated by an employer and travel by an employee in furtherance of the affairs of an
employer that is specifically directed by the employer. 85A O.S. § 2(13) [effective 2/1/14]
C. Not Course & Scope-
1) An employee's transportation to and from his or her place of employment,
2) travel by an employee in furtherance of the affairs of an employer if the travel is
also in furtherance of personal or private affairs of the employee,
3) any injury occurring in a parking lot or other common area adjacent to an
employer's place of business before the employee clocks in or otherwise begins
work for the employer or after the employee clocks out or otherwise stops work
for the employer, or
4) any injury occurring while an employee is on a work break, unless the injury
occurs while the employee is on a work break inside the employer's facility and
the work break is authorized by the employee's supervisor. See 85A O.S. §
2(13)(a-d) [effective 2/1/14]
III. Historical Understanding of Course & Scope (5 minutes)
A. Previous Statutory Definition: 2011 WC Code did not specifically define course and scope.
B. Compensable injury was harm to the body which arises out of and in the course of
employment if such was the major cause of injury. 85 O.S. 308(10)(a) [effective 8/26/11;
amended effective 1/1/15]
C. Employment was deemed to commence when arriving at the place of employment to report
for work and terminates when leaving the place of employment, excluding areas not under
the control of the employer or areas where essential job functions are not performed. See
85 O.S. § 312(6) [effective 8/26/11]
D. Also covered if an employee is instructed by the employer to perform a work-related task
away from the employee’s place of employment and/or when the employee is engaged in
performance of job duties directly related to the task as instructed by the employer,
including travel time solely related and necessary to the employee’s performance of the
IV. Case Law Examples (20 minutes)
A. Discussion/Analysis of Causal Nexus and ‘Arising Out Of’ requirement in American Management
Systems v. Burns- 1995 OK 58
Course: Time, place or circumstances under which the injury occurs
Scope: the causal connection between the injury and risks incident to employment. Injury must
be employment related and not a personal risk, exceeds those hazards available to the public at
Thoughts on the Burns decision:
1) Facts: Traveling worker assigned to install computer software for company in Oklahoma.
Claimant was based in Maryland. Claimant was staying in OK hotel where he was ultimately
robbed and murdered.
2) Holding: Lack of causal nexus between employment and Claimant’s demise
3) ‘Arising out of’ component requires an employment related risk versus a purely personal
risk. Must exceed the ordinary hazards to which the general public is exposed.
B. Subsequent Cases For Consideration
Carney v. DirectTV, 316 P.3d 234 (decided 11/22/13)- Claimant worked as a Customer Service Agent.
She lived in a neighboring apartment complex proximal to the workplace. Claimant walked across the
Direct TV parking lot to take her lunch break at home. Direct TV controlled the lot. Claimant was
authorized for a 30 minute lunch break during her shift. On her way back from lunch at home, Claimant
was walking across the parking lot, back to the workplace, and tripped over a curb, injuring her right
shoulder. Court of Appeals found that Claimant’s work began when arriving at the parking lot to report
back to work and that the injury was compensable within course of the employment.
K-Mart v. Herring- 2008 OK 75- During a seven-hour shift, a night watchman left his assigned work
premises to use the restroom at a fast food establishment. Claimant was then injured by a gun shot
while in the drive-through lane. Claimant’s supervisor had instructed him to go to the nearest
convenience store if he had any issues or needed anything. The Supreme Court found there was a
causal nexus between Claimant’s assignment and the particular harm that ensued. K-Mart expected
Herring to be on its premises except for time and area limited excursions to address any issues he might
have. The employment conditions forced Herring to go to a location such as a convenience store or fast
food establishment during the night for his personal comfort needs. It would be unreasonable for an
employer to expect an employee to go without food or drink and without a restroom break during a
seven-hour shift. There is evidence in the record that the employment conditions exposed Herring to
more risks of injury from an act of violence than that of the general public because of the time of the
employment, the type of employment, and the necessity of going to either a convenience store, fast
food establishment, or a similar business to attend his personal needs.
Copeland v. Boots Pharmaceuticals- 1996 OK CIV APP 8- Claimant worked in sales and was required to
travel for work. Claimant was staying in a hotel and awoke to a stinging sensation in her leg, asserting
she was bitten by a spider. Even assuming Claimant could state she was sure she was bitten by a spider,
there is no evidence that her work as a sales representative for Employer has any connection to the risk
of encountering poisonous spiders. Thus, her risk at being bitten is not greater than that of the general
public; it is a purely personal risk. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial of compensability.
V. Recent Opinion- Premises Injury (5 minutes)
In the recent case of Legarde-Bober v. OSU (decided 6/28/16), the OK Supreme Court interpreted these
course/scope exclusions, providing some direction on the interpretation of work premises. In Legarde-
Bober, Claimant was a teacher at the child development lab on the OSU-OKC campus. While leaving a
parking lot, owned/maintained by OSU, Claimant slipped on ice stepping onto the lab’s curb, sustaining
injury. The Court noted Claimant did not have the option to work remotely and was required to report
to the facility on campus to perform her job duties. Though it was uncontested Claimant had not
clocked-in or begun work, the Court found the common parking lot was not adjacent to OSU’s place of
business, but that the parking lot and sidewalk were the premises. Though not the main issue, the Court
also discussed the Statute’s differentiation between work break injuries outside the premises versus
those inside and the Legislature’s clear intent to exempt the former.
What does the Legarde-Bober holding mean for future considerations?
VI. Considerations for a Growing Remote Workforce (15 minutes discussion)
The issue of course and scope is always highly fact intensive. What is course and scope in the remote
employee scenario? What are the parameters and limitations?
Specific job duties?
As it relates to remote employees, employers should consider the prudence of clearly defining, in
writing, those activities within course and scope of the remote employee’s job.