A strange case was just decided in the great state of Oklahoma. It was at least strange to me. But then, I suppose many things are strange to me. A computer programmer who had a heart attack while performing lawn maintenance for his employer has been awarded medical and temporary total benefits by the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. 

The company, Yzer, Inc., which I can only assume is pronounced “wiser”, had maintained that the employee was simply volunteering, and was therefore not entitled to benefits, since apparently weeding and mowing the lawn are not within the course and scope of his employment. The court found otherwise, indicating that this salaried employee was working with both the knowledge of and benefit for his employer.

From my limited knowledge of the case (and of course all my knowledge is severely limited), I would have to agree with the court on this one. Unlike a recent Missouri case where a woman’s injury was found non-compensable because she injured herself while making coffee, this case involves activity that one does not normally associate with recreational or leisurely personal pursuits. I hardly imagine the employee said to a co-worker, “I need a break, I think I am going to re-sod the front lawn”. No, it appears that the Yzer (pronounced “wiser”?) employee was performing extra functions for his employer. Even if he “volunteered” to help with an outdoor project, this is no different than if he had offered to run to the office supply and had an accident in the process. The employers knowledge and acceptance of the work made this within the course and scope of an action ultimately benefitting them. 

I can think of a number of reasons why you would never want IT guys doing your landscaping. First, I’ve known many programmers in my life. Hell, I’m a programmer, albeit it of the lesser respected web variety. There is no way any of us should be trusted with power equipment of any kind. Not only would we likely injure ourselves or someone else, we would want to “upgrade” or improve the equipment, most likely to the point where you would need a Theoretical Physicist to operate it. Sort of a tubby Tim Taylor meets Sheldon Cooper scenario.

The second reason relates to the general health of computer programmers, and their physical readiness for the exertion that lawn work requires. Most programmers sit in darkened cubicles for hours on end, staring with the vacuous look of a Florida pill mill patient at hieroglyphic like characters on their multiple computer monitors. They are not the greatest example of physical perfection. The most exercise many of them get is using a joystick until 3 in the morning while playing “Endless Zombie Rampage 2” with some 12 year old in Leningrad. This particular Yzer (wiser?) employee could have suffered the same heart attack while buying Milk Duds and Cheetos from the vending machine in the break area, and the company would have been free and clear. But alas, that was not the case. 

The third reason you would not want the IT guys responsible for your landscaping is that in very short order you would not be able to understand anything having to do with your lawn. “Cutting the grass” would become “Horizontally calibrating the enterprise wide lawn greening application”. “Trimming the hedges” would become “purging redundant material and re-compartmentalizing decorative fixture applications”. And “weeding” would simply be “defragging the test bed”.

And of course, everything they do would be self described as “robust”. 

And let us not ignore the upgrades that would no doubt occur. “Landscape 2.0” will be sleeker, faster and more user friendly than the previous 1.0 application. When you ask why they ripped out an attractive flower bed to replace it with a wifi enabled butterfly garden featuring redundant milkweed installations, you would be told “that the old flowerbed module did not interface well with the other components. It was a major reason for the necessary landscape system upgrade”. They of course would add, “besides, version 1.0 components are no longer supported”.

Then they would look at you like you were stupid for not knowing this in the first place, since anyone with a brain in their head should know both what a “wifi enabled butterfly garden featuring redundant milkweed installations” is, and how to use it properly.  

I don’t know if the Yzer employee was defragging, horizontally calibrating, or upgrading, but he was on the payroll and was apparently doing this work on behalf of his employer. It’s too bad. Looking out the window it seems my office could use some systems enhancement in our current Landscape 1.0 configuration. Maybe some of our technical folks will “volunteer”. They don’t read my blog anyway, so they will be none the Yzer.

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