In Re Labor Day

By Judge Brian Addington, Kingsport

Judge Addington rocking the ’70s fashion.

As a child, I always dreaded the end of summer. My school granted me three and a half months of freedom and I loved to take every advantage of it. I spent all day outside as often as I could, running from friend’s house to house and totally enjoying myself. But in the back of my mind and there on the yearly calendar stood my foe: Labor Day. That dreaded day when I knew that, once it was over, school started again. Little did I know as I grew older I would come to love and appreciate it.

It’s hard to talk about Labor Day without mentioning its history.  In the late 1800s, several Americans came up with the idea of a national day celebrating labor and unions in the United States. As our nation grew and became more industrial, laws dealing with fair labor, child labor and safety lagged behind. Several large strikes were orchestrated to correct what workers and many others considered unfair practices. One of the worst was the Pullman Strike, which ended only after President Cleveland involved the U.S. military and the Supreme Court ordered the strike leaders to end it. In a conciliatory gesture, almost as soon as the strike ended, Congress enacted the bill authorizing Labor Day as a national holiday. It is celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Back in the day, Labor Day was a day of parades celebrating labor and outside picnics for workers’ families. Today, it has really become a weekend event, with most workers taking it easy all weekend and enjoying the end of summer. But, since the nation cannot shut down totally on Labor Day, many workers go to work like usual. In fact, some retailers consider it one of the best weekends of the year because so many people are out enjoying themselves and readying themselves for the school year.

Unfortunately, if there are people working on Labor Day, some are bound to get injured. I had the opportunity to do some research on recent claims filed in Tennessee. From 2010 through 2016, there averaged 147 injuries on Labor Day with the low in 2016 of 122 and a high of 156 in 2015. In researching days before and after Labor Day, there were significantly more injuries–indicating that many workers were off for Labor Day.

An interesting case I came across involved Mr. Ruskin, a maintenance technician who was scheduled to be off the three-day Labor Day weekend but was on call the whole time. He was injured on the Sunday before Labor Day. During the weekend, Mr. Ruskin enjoyed some alcoholic beverages but was called to work to help a tenant retrieve keys from an elevator shaft. After following a tenant to the tenant’s apartment to retrieve a “lock-out” fee, Mr. Ruskin fell 20 feet down a stair well. The employer defended the claim on grounds of intoxication. Although there was no toxicology report, the trial court concluded, based on expert and lay testimony, the employer had proven Mr. Ruskin’s intoxication was a cause of his injury. The Special Panel affirmed the trial court’s decision. See Ruskin v. Ledic Realty Servs.

Recently, my family and friends were discussing our upcoming Labor day activities: four-wheeling, fishing, barbecuing, shopping, traveling, etc. The list goes on and it’s mainly activities that will involve us relaxing, enjoying the blessings of God and the fruits of our labor. As I stated above, I really look forward to Labor Day now.


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