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United Airlines, Inc. v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 27, 1983.

Respondent, United Airlines, Inc., employed claimant, Rogers Walker, as a ramp serviceman at its San Francisco International Airport terminal. Claimant was allegedly injured on three occasions in the course of his employment in California and, on the basis of his initial employment period with respondent as a ramp serviceman at its O'Hare International Airport facilities in Chicago, filed for benefits under the Illinois Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.). Following a contested proceeding confined solely to the issue of whether the Industrial Commission possessed jurisdiction to award compensation, the arbitrator concluded that jurisdiction existed, and the Commission affirmed that decision on review. The circuit court of Cook County reversed, and claimant filed a notice of appeal to this court (73 Ill.2d R. 302(a)).

Extensive testimony by claimant at the hearings before the arbitrator and the Commission revealed the following facts. Claimant, an Illinois resident, was first employed in Chicago as a ramp serviceman by respondent from April 1969 until July 1970, when he voluntarily left respondent's employ. He was rehired in the same position in April 1972. As a part of the hiring process on both occasions, respondent's personnel department required claimant to complete a short "screening" application, a formal employment application, and a general aptitude test, and to undergo a physical examination conducted by respondent's physician. In addition, he was photographed, fingerprinted, and required to fill out income tax and labor union forms. After a security investigation was satisfactorily concluded, respondent notified claimant that he could report to work, subject to a 90-day probationary period during which he could be summarily dismissed. Upon being rehired, claimant's seniority status began to accrue as of the April 1972 hiring date and did not include the earlier period.

Several years later claimant filed applications for a transfer to one of four different positions. The first available opening for a position requested by claimant was for that of mechanic's helper at San Francisco International Airport, and respondent granted his transfer request in February 1976. Claimant did not undergo the extensive processing conducted when he joined respondent's work force at O'Hare International Airport, but rather was required only to pose for a new photograph and was issued a new membership card by the local union. The employee identification number assigned to claimant by respondent remained the same, as did his seniority status.

Claimant was given two weeks of training by respondent and worked for approximately two months as a mechanic's helper before he resumed work as a ramp serviceman. The record indicates that transferred employees are also subject to a 90-day probation period, but under the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement governing claimant's employment contract, individuals who change positions and fail to successfully complete the probationary period are apparently entitled to resume their former duties.

On September 30, 1976, and May 19, 1977, claimant was allegedly injured in the course of his employment. Temporary disability benefits were paid under California law, and applications for permanent compensation for those injuries are also pending in that State. Claimant also filed applications for adjustment of claims with the Illinois Industrial Commission and agreed with respondent to submit as the only issue in initial proceedings the question of whether his claims fell within the Commission's jurisdiction. As earlier noted, the arbitrator held that claimant's employment contract had been made in Illinois and that jurisdiction existed, and that decision was affirmed by the Commission. Soon after the hearing held before the Illinois arbitrator, claimant filed a third claim based on an injury allegedly suffered on March 2, 1979, and the Commission determined that it also had jurisdiction over that matter. All claims were consolidated in the circuit court and reversed, because that court believed the spirit of this court's decision in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 425, required a conclusion that the Commission lacked jurisdiction.

The language of the Illinois Workmen's Compensation Act indicates, and the decisions of this court have recognized, that the Act was designed to have an extraterritorial effect. Employees covered by the Act include "[e]very person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, including persons whose employment is outside of the State of Illinois where the contract of hire is made within the State of Illinois * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 138.1(b)(2)). In addition, the title of the Act provides further evidence of its wide scope; the full title is "An Act to promote the general welfare of the people of this State by providing compensation for accidental injuries or death suffered in the course of employment within this State, and without this State where the contract of employment is made within this State; providing for the enforcement and administering thereof, and a penalty for its violation, and repealing an Act therein named." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 138.) This court has held that employment contracts made in Illinois are normally to be interpreted as including an agreement by the parties to be bound by the Act even when the contemplated employment is exclusively in other States. See Johnston v. Industrial Com. (1933), 352 Ill. 74; Beall Brothers Supply Co. v. Industrial Com. (1930), 341 Ill. 193; see also Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 425, 430; M.W.M. Trucking Co. v. Industrial Com. (1976), 62 Ill.2d 245, 254; Morris v. Industrial Com. (1973), 55 Ill.2d 563, 564.

The circuit court's reliance upon Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 425, for its holding that the Commission lacks jurisdiction in this cause is misplaced, as that decision is clearly inapposite upon its facts. Unlike the situation here, in which claimant's employment with respondent was continuous and uninterrupted at the time of his transfer, the claimant in Youngstown was permanently "laid off" from his position in an Illinois plant. Several months later, he learned of an opening at an Indiana plant operated by his former employer and, after comprehensive hiring procedures were completed at that plant, he worked there for approximately 12 years before suffering the injury for which he sought benefits under Illinois law. Under the circumstances present in that case, this court concluded that there was no contractual basis for applying Illinois compensation law because the claimant's Illinois employment contract had been terminated when his employment with the company had ended and that his new employment relationship was governed by a contract made in Indiana.

Similarly, respondent's citation of Kennedy-VanSaun Manufacturing & Engineering Corp. (1934), 355 Ill. 519, for the proposition that a transfer also operates to transfer the situs of the employment contract is unpersuasive in light of the different facts present in that case. There the employee was transferred from a position with a parent New York company to a subsidiary located in Illinois, and this court held that his former employment contract, made outside of Illinois, had been superseded by a new contract with a new employer made within Illinois and that the Commission therefore had jurisdiction over the matter.

Respondent also urges that we apply a theory of jurisdiction suggested by Professor Larson that jurisdiction over compensation issues should be present only where the employment relationship is centered, and that the situs of that relationship should be governed by rules similar to those governing questions concerning an individual's domicile. (4 A. Larson, Workmen's Compensation secs. 87.40 through 87.42 (1982).) An exclusive application of that theory, however, is not consistent with the contractual basis of jurisdiction specified by our compensation act, and any change therein will have to be legislatively mandated.

Determining the existence of jurisdiction necessarily involves a factual inquiry as well as an application of the law. In their capacity as finders of fact, the arbitrator and the Commission found that the employment contract existing between claimant and respondent at the time of his injuries was made in Illinois. That finding is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and must, therefore, be affirmed. (Globe Cab Co. v. Industrial Com. (1981), 86 Ill.2d 354; Morin Erection Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 81 Ill.2d 72; Eagle Sheet Metal Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 81 Ill.2d 31.) We accordingly hold that the Industrial Commission has jurisdiction to entertain claimant's applications for adjustment of claims.

The judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is accordingly reversed, and the decision of ...

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