Oregon Home Health Care Worker’s Employment Is Broader Than Approved Task List

Like a number of other states, Oregon has a program through which its Department of Human Services provides home health care services to qualifying clients (state citizens), at state expense. Generally, once a client qualifies, a case manager prepares a “Service Plan” and a “Task List” setting forth the number of home health care service hours to which the client is entitled as well as a list of tasks for which compensation can be paid. At issue in SAIF Corp. v. Tono, 2014 Ore. App. LEXIS 1297 (Sept. 17, 2014), was whether ORS 656.039(5) limits the workers’ compensation coverage available to a home care worker funded by the state to only those injuries suffered by the worker while performing tasks on the approved task list. The Oregon appellate court concluded that it does not. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier, SAIF Corp., contended that the home health care worker was injured in an automobile accident as she drove the client to get breakfast, that the worker was not authorized to drive the client anywhere, and that accordingly, the worker’s injuries did not arise out of and in the course of the employment.

The appellate court held that nothing in the plain terms of the provision imposed any limitation on the scope of workers’ compensation coverage available to state-funded home care workers. The court added that if the legislature had intended to limit workers’ compensation coverage for home care workers to particular activities, it would have said so expressly, as it did in ORS 656.031, ORS 656.033, and ORS 656.041, by stating that home care workers were entitled to workers’ compensation benefits “provided the injury occurred while the home care worker was performing a state-funded duty,” or some similar wording. The legislature’s omission of that type of express limitation in ORS 656.039(5) indicated that it did not intend to impose one on workers’ compensation coverage for home care workers.

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