Gerald Catalano v. United Parcel Service, Docket No. A-3845-08T3 (App. Div. decided March 9, 2010)

The composite employment incidents test: when may the New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation invoke jurisdiction?

In April of 2000, the petitioner, a resident of Staten Island, New York, applied for a full-time position with United Parcel Service ("UPS") as a package delivery driver. The petitioner's interview and requisite physical examination were conducted at UPS's Edison, New Jersey, facility which handled the application process for all Staten Island employees. On July 24, 2000, the petitioner was hired by UPS via a telephone call to his home in Staten Island. The petitioner soon underwent a mandatory 30-training period, which included a one- to two-week driving class at UPS's Tinton Falls, New Jersey, facility and on-the-job training with experienced drivers in Staten Island. Following the successful completion of his training and a probationary period, the petitioner was assigned the status of permanent employee with UPS working exclusively in Staten Island. Although the petitioner's mandatory union membership with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was through its local in Hillside, New Jersey, he reported to his supervisors, received route assignments and job duties and picked up his paychecks at UPS's main Staten Island facility. On October 28, 2003, and August 9, 2004, the petitioner sustained injuries to his low-back during his Staten Island route. The petitioner filed actions in the New York Division of Workers' Compensation and received temporary disability benefits and medical treatment pursuant to the New York statute. The petitioner then filed claim petitions with the New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation for his October 28, 2003, and August 9, 2004, injuries in an attempt to obtain permanent disability benefits which are unavailable under the New York statute. UPS moved for dismissal of the petitioner's New Jersey claims for lack of jurisdiction. Following trial, the judge of compensation dismissed the petitioner's claims with prejudice, concluding that there was no compelling reason to invoke New Jersey's jurisdiction. The petitioner appealed, arguing that New Jersey had sufficient contacts with the employment relationship to exercise jurisdiction. In affirming the judge of compensation's ruling, the Appellate Division relied on Williams v. Port Authority, 175 N.J. 82 (2003), in which the Supreme Court cited the following factors to be considered in determining whether an employee has sufficient contacts with the New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation to warrant jurisdiction: [1] the place where the injury occurred; [2] the place of making the contract; [3] the place where the employment relationship exists or is carried out; [4] the place where the industry is localized; [5] the place where the employee resides; or [6] the place whose Statute the parties expressly adopt by contract. "We are satisfied," the Appellate Division concluded, "that the composite employment incidents present a most compelling identification of the employment relationship with [the State of New Jersey.]" Here, both accidents occurred in New York; the employment contract was made in New York when the petitioner accepted the job with UPS via a phone call to his home in Staten Island; and the petitioner resides in New York. Further, all of the petitioner's route assignments and job duties emanated from UPS's main Staten Island facility. The Appellate Division found unconvincing the petitioner's argument that the judge of compensation should have placed greater emphasis on his assignment to a union local in Hillside, New Jersey, to establish contact with New Jersey for jurisdictional purposes. "The mere fact that the union, within its sole prerogative, assigned Petitioner to a New Jersey local," the Appellate Division reasoned, "does not detract from the clear evidence that Petitioner's employment relationship with UPS was carried out in New York."

Case Law Alert - 3rd Qtr 2010