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Benefits Review Board Affirms that Office Workers Are Not Entitled to Longshore Benefits

In the case of Motton v. Huntington Ingalls Industries, BRB No. 18-0148, decided on November 14, 2018, the Benefits Review Board of the Department of Labor determined that a drawing clerk was not entitled to benefits under the Longshore Act.

33 USC §902(3)(A), of the Longshore Act excludes from coverage those workers who are engaged in office clerical work. The rationale behind the exclusive is that these workers do not have a sufficient connection to traditional maritime work and are not exposed to the same hazards as those who perform longshoring or shipbuilding.

In this case, Cassandra Motton worked as a drawing clerk. Her job was managing blueprints for the construction workers in the trades department. She kept track of when the blueprints where checked in and out by the construction crew, stored and catalogued the prints, and made sure the workers were provided with the latest blueprints.

Motton’s job duties were mostly confined to the office, and that any trips outside the office were only incidental and not required for her to perform her job. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) distinguished this case from a similar case, Wheeler v. Newport News Shipbuilding, 39 BRBS 49 (2005), in which the injured worker was determined to be entitled to Longshore benefits. In that case, the injured worker Wheeler was a senior engineer who regularly worked outside of the office to meet with engineers in order to inspect and discuss the suitability of shipbuilding parts.

In Motton, the BRB determined that the ALJ correctly decided the case. The ALJ correctly concluded that Ms. Motton was an office worker, and therefore was excluded from Longshore coverage. She would be covered under state workers’ compensation law, not Longshore.

Here at Kenneth G. Franconero, PLLC, we recognize that whether or not an injured worker is covered under Longshore law is often a complicated issue, involving subtle facts particular to each case. Also, while the exclusion was set forth in the Longshore statute, the ALJ relied upon several cases previously decided by the Board. It is imperative for an injured worker to consult with legal counsel to discuss.