SANDRA MERCER, Employee, v. SUSAN A. BERG, UNINSURED, Employer/Appellant, and BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF ILL., and ST. MARY’S DULUTH CLINIC HEALTH SYS., Intervenors, and SPECIAL COMPENSATION FUND.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
SEPTEMBER 28, 2009
EXCLUSIONS FROM COVERAGE - HOUSEHOLD WORKER; STATUTES CONSTRUED - MINN. STAT. §§ 176.011, SUBD. 21, and 176.041, SUBD. 1(n). Where the employee was hired to care for a homeowner’s children in the family home, there was no legal basis for the compensation judge’s conclusion that the employee was not a household worker under the statute merely because her only duties related to care of the children, even if the employee had not been hired to perform household chores for the children such as preparing their meals and doing their laundry; the WCCA found no authority to re-examine the legislature’s decision to deny coverage to this specific class of employees.
Determined by: Pederson, J., Rykken, J., and Wilson, J.
Compensation Judge: Jerome G. Arnold
Attorneys: Mary Katherine Cohen, Orman, Nord, Spott & Hurd, Duluth, MN, for the Respondent. Brad M. Delger, Aafedt, Forde, Gray, Monson & Hager, Minneapolis, MN, for the Appellant. John R. Baumgarth, Duluth, MN, for the Special Compensation Fund.
WILLIAM R. PEDERSON, Judge
Susan A. Berg, uninsured, appeals from the compensation judge’s finding that the employee was not a “household worker” as defined by Minnesota Statutes section 176.011, subdivision 21, and so was not excluded from workers’ compensation coverage under Minnesota Statutes section 176.041, subdivision 1(n). We reverse.
The facts specific to this case are not materially in dispute. On February 23, 2008, Sandra Mercer [the employee] was hired by Dr. Susan Berg to work as a nanny to care for Dr. Berg’s two children. The job involved preparing specified meals for the children, cleaning up afterwards, getting the children ready for school, transporting the children to and from school, doing the children’s laundry, bathing them, putting them to bed, and remaining overnight when Dr. Berg worked overnight shifts or was out of town for her job. On her first day on the job, the employee fell on the stairs at Dr. Berg’s home and broke her foot.
On June 26, 2008, the employee filed a claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits against Dr. Berg, who was not insured against workers’ compensation liability. Dr. Berg and the Special Compensation Fund denied liability for the employee’s injury, contending that coverage was not available for the employee under the so-called “household worker” exclusion set forth in Minnesota Statutes section 176.041, subdivision 1(n). Pursuant to Minnesota Rule 1420.2605, a hearing solely to determine the employment status of the employee was held on February 3, 2009. In a Findings and Order issued February 26, 2009, the compensation judge determined that the employee was not a household worker within the meaning of the statute and was therefore not excluded from coverage. Dr. Berg appeals from the judge’s determination.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“[A] decision which rests upon the application of a statute or rule to essentially undisputed facts generally involves a question of law which [the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals] may consider de novo.” Krovchuk v. Koch Refinery, 48 W.C.D. 607, 608 (W.C.C.A. 1993).
Minnesota Statutes section 176.041, subd. 1(n), excludes from coverage under Chapter 176 “a person employed as a household worker in, for, or about a private home or household who earns less than $1,000 in cash in a three-month period from a single private home or household.” In the present case, the employee was injured on the very first day of her employment, and it is undisputed that she had earned less than $1,000. The issue presented, therefore, is whether the employee was employed as a “household worker” as contemplated by the statute. Minnesota Statutes section 176.011, subdivision 21, defines that term as follows:
Subd. 21. Household worker. “Household worker” means one who is a domestic, repairer, groundskeeper, or maintenance worker in, for, or about a private home or household, but the term shall not include independent contractors nor shall it include persons performing labor for which they may elect workers’ compensation coverage under section 176.041, subdivision 1a.
Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 21. The compensation judge determined that the employee’s employment was not that of a household worker as defined by Minnesota law. He concluded that, because the childcare services and associated household chores provided in Dr. Berg’s home related solely to the care of the children, the employee was not a household worker. In his memorandum, the judge explained that he found the instant case analogous to this court’s reasoning in Duke v. Davies, 37 W.C.D. 323 (W.C.C.A. 1984).
In Duke, the employee had been hired by the employer as a personal care attendant. The employer, Ms. Davies, had suffered a stroke and required the services of an in-home attendant to assist her in getting dressed in the morning, getting to the bathroom, and other activities of daily living. The employee was hired not to perform housecleaning duties but solely to attend to the personal care of Ms. Davies. Under those facts, the court found that the employee’s duties were not those of a domestic, and therefore it affirmed a finding by a compensation judge that the employee was not a household worker under the statute.
On appeal, Dr. Berg contends that the Duke case is distinguishable on its facts. The employee in the present case, she argues, was not working as a personal care attendant at the time of her injury. Nor, she contends, do the limited facts of the Duke case require the performance of housecleaning duties for an employee to be considered a domestic worker. In Anderson v. Ueland, the supreme court stated that domestic workers are persons “who are employed exclusively in the care of the family home and in serving members of the family.” Anderson v. Ueland, 197 Minn. 518, 267 N.W. 517, 519 (1936), quoting Eicholz v. Shaft, 166 Minn. 339, 208 N.W. 18, 20 (1926) (underscoring added). Under this definition, she argues, a nanny/babysitter employed in the family home and attending to the needs of the children is clearly a domestic worker. We agree.
In the present case, the employee was hired to care for Dr. Berg’s children in the family home. She was given detailed instructions regarding the children’s needs and routine. Even if the employee had not been hired to perform any household chores for the children such as preparing their meals and doing their laundry - - which she in fact had been hired to do in this case - - we find no legal basis for concluding that the employee was not a household worker merely because her only duties related to care of the children. Caring for the family home and “serving members of the family” is exactly what the employee was hired to do. See id. We acknowledge the disparity created by the legislature’s decision to deny coverage to a specific class of employees, but, while the legislature may wish to do so, we have no authority to re-examine the policy behind the statute.
We therefore reverse the compensation judge’s finding that the employee was not a household worker, and we hold that the employee is excluded from coverage by the earnings requirements of Minnesota Statutes section 176.141, subdivision 1(n).
 The Special Compensation Fund was named as a party on the Employee’s Claim Petition because of Dr. Berg’s uninsured status.
 See Arens v. Hanecy, 269 N.W.2d 924, 31 W.C.D. 156 (Minn. 1978) (workers’ compensation coverage for household workers does not go into effect until the employee’s quarterly accrued earnings reach the statutory threshold).