A Christmas tie in June, a court bailiff, and a car accident

The calendar said June, but Scott Garrity's tie screamed Christmas.

Thinking it was inappropriate attire for his job as a bailiff at a the Baltimore District Court building on Patapsco Avenue, Garrity sought a way to change. He called his son to bring a replacement to restore decorum in the court.

But then he spilled coffee, and he decided to drive home and change. As he returned to work, his car was hit head-on by a truck, sending him to the hospital for a month. He filed a workman's compensation claim with the state.

The state agreed that Garrity's claim fit within the "personal comfort exception." But the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund appealed, and a Circuit Court judge agreed to throw out the claim. Garrity then appealed.

On Thursday, Maryland's Court of Special Appeals upheld the court's decision, six years after the crash occurred in 2006. Garrity doesn't deserve any money because his trip was unauthorized, and ws not part of his work, the court ruled. No word yet on whether an appeal to the state's highest court is forthcoming.

The decision by the court describes in detail when a worker who is not working might actually be working after all. Garrity wasn't really working, the judges found, but another worker who got hurt getting food for a babysitter was working because she had been ordered to attend a benefit dinner.

Garrity's argued that bailiffs covered for each other all the time for personal errands, and that it was customary for one to run out for a bit even without permission from the boss. Garrity only lived about 10 minutes away from the court house.

Garrity also said that proper dress is required in court -- for bailiffs it is a blue blazer, gray slacks, dress shirt and a light or dark blue tie. The court decided that the dress code was merely a guideline.

The judges then got into what is and what isn't permissible to do on the job.

Driving to and from work, for example, generally isn't covered under workman's comp laws, unless there is some sort of emergency. The court calls that a "special errand at the request of the employer."

A city cop got compensation after getting into accident while driving to the station becaue the police commissioner had put all officers on a five-day alert, and had called this officer in to work three hours early. "He was obligated to report as soon as possible," the court said, "and failure to do so could have resulted in discipline."

In another case, a man had to attend a party to honor a colleague. The man and his wife got into an accident while picking up groceries for a babysitter and their child, and the court ruled that the trip to the store "was a special mission" because the babysitter wouldn't have been needed had the couple not had to attend the party.

Garrity's attorneys tried to convince the court that "there was an implied authority" for him to leave because the bailiffs had a liberal policy of covering for each other to duck out of the office for personal business. He noted that he left the court house every other Friday -- dubbed "Fish Friday" -- to buy 16 to 20 orders of fish from Hollins Market.

The court said that "the knowledge and acceptance that [Garrity] drove to Hollins Market every other Friday demonstrates that he had implied authority for that task. Likewise, it indicates that [Garrity] did not have implied authority to drive home and change his shirt and tie because [his boss] did not know about  the errand and did not implicitly authorize it."

If only Garrity had worn the Christmas tie on "Fish Friday," he might've been covered for the accident. Read the full court's opinion here.



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