One of the more interesting cases in Minnesota workers’ compensation law is that of Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy. It’s a case that centers around high heels, and it ultimately set the precedent for how workers’ compensation claims are evaluated. Today, we explain how high heels helped shape the workers’ compensation industry in Minnesota.
Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy
Workers’ compensation law is always changing, and it underwent a big shift a couple of years ago when the case of Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy came to light. Before we delve into how it impacted work comp law, we’ll give a little background on the case.
Ms. Dykhoff was a journeyman electrician whose job duties involved electronically monitoring power and transmission lines. She said she often wore jeans and described the dress code as “casual.” On the date of her injury, Ms. Dykhoff was attending a work conference that she had been instructed to attend by her company. She was informed that the dress code for the event was “dress clothes,” so she wore an outfit and a pair of two-inch high heels. While she was walking to the conference room, Ms. Dykhoff slipped on the dry floor and injured her knee. She filed a workers’ compensation claim over the injury.
The description of the event sounds like something a law student may run into while studying for their exam, and as one might expect, there was no straightforward answer. Her claim was originally denied, but that ruling was later overturned by an Appeals Court. Ultimately, the finding of the Appeals Court were overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Ms. Dykhoff’s claim for compensation was denied.
Established Three Key Principles
In it’s overturn of the original ruling, the Appeals Court stated that their findings were based on three tests to determine if an injury is compensable. Those three tests were:
- The Increased Risk Test – Under this test, the employee must prove that they were exposed to greater risk of injury than the public.
- The Positional Risk Test – The employee needs to prove that her employer or her job put her in the position where she was injured.
- The Work-Connection Balance Test – The employee must prove that the injury arose out of employee duties.
The appeals court argued that the case passed the Increased Risk Test even though it wasn’t as strong as some other cases, but the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed, stating that when “the employment creates a special hazard from which injury comes, then, within the meaning of [workers’ compensation], there is that causal relation” between employment and the injury suffered. Essentially, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that although Ms. Dyhkoff’s required attire directly contributed to her injury, the environment her workplace created (requiring dress clothes) did not expose her to any additional risk that she would face in her everyday life. Since the floor was dry and did not contribute to her injury, and her argument revolved solely around her heels, the Supreme Court denied her claim.
So while Ms Dyhkoff’s claim was ultimately denied, the case put a spotlight on the three tests that help determine the validity of a workers’ compensation claim – The Increased Risk Test, The Positional Risk Test, and The Work-Connection Balance Test. Workers’ compensation attorneys build their cases around these three test, and they know the best ways prove you meet the standard. If you suffered a work injury or your initial claim was denied, contact Dean Margolis today. He’ll work with you to help prove your case before the court.
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