WORKERS COMP: Agriculture did not include logging operation for workers compensation coverage: COM. OF KENTUCKY V. GUSSLER (COA 8/8/2008)

WORKERS COMP:  Agriculture did not include logging operation for
workers compensation coverage
      DATE RENDERED: 8/8/2008
On appeal, the Uninsured Employers’ Fund (UEF) argues that the Board erred in overturning the ALJ, thereby excluding Williams’ tree harvesting activities from the definition of agriculture.
COA disagreed and affirmed.
Gussler described his occupation for the majority of his life as “cutting timber and running a dozer in the woods.”
UEF maintains that Williams’ logging operation was excluded from workers’ compensation coverage under the agricultural exemption to the Act by reason of the fact that Williams was a farmer harvesting trees from the farmland that he owned.
The ALJ ruled that Williams was exempt from contractor status under KRS 342.610(2) and that Gussler’s injury was excluded from coverage as an agricultural exemption under KRS 342.0011(18), KRS 342.630(1), and KRS 342.650(5). In so ruling, the ALJ found that the logging was part of the protected agricultural enterprise and was purely a function of harvesting and farming.
The Board found that Gussler was an employee, and Williams was his employer at the time of the November 9, 2004, accident. Further, the Board disagreed with the ALJ with respect to the agricultural exemption, finding that the logging work performed by Gussler did not meet the definition of “agriculture” as that term is defined by the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act.
It is from that decision that the UEF now appeals.
Certainly, logging is not explicitly mentioned in the definition of
agriculture under KRS 342.0011(18).
The logging performed by Gussler was not incident to farming. Although it occurred on a farm,
it was not connected to the day to day operations of the farm itself.
Williams himself made clear that the timber was removed not to clear the land for other farming purposes, but purely to be sold for profit, which was his main source of income. Indeed, at one point during the time in which he employed Gussler, Williams kept both a saw mill and a kiln dry on his property in conjunction with his logging operations.
Williams wrote “logging” on the checks he made payable to Gussler and conceded that he had a federal tax ID number solely in conjunction with his logging pursuits.

In light of the foregoing, the COA concurred with the Board that the work which Gussler was performing for Williams on November 8, 2004 was logging, which
was not “agriculture” as that term is defined by the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act.

Digested by Michael Stevens

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