As snow and ice return to Lincoln, discussions between downtown Lincoln businesses and city officials about the future of the Skywalk system become even more important to workplace safety.
The skywalks once served as an indoor mall in downtown Lincoln connecting stores, parking garages and hotels. (My mom worked at Miller and Paine in the 1970s and 1980s in a building that now houses Nelnet) The skywalks and buildings served by them mainly serve office workers in downtown Lincoln. I frequent the skywalks when I have work obligations downtown. Many major downtown employers, such as Nelnet, subsidize employee parking in various downtown garages. Employees can access those garages through the skywalks.
Downtown parking garages can also be accessed from the street. But with winter comes ice and the risks of slips and falls. The question becomes who would be responsible for a slip and fall when an employee is walking to and from a company assigned and subsidized parking spot off-site. Arguably a slip and fall in this situation would be covered under workers’ compensation under the “parking lot” rule articulated in Nebraska in Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge. It’s also possible that an employee injured while walking to and from employer subsidized public transportation, could have a workers’ compensation claim as well.
In theory, indoor walkways like the skywalk system would reduce the chances of slip and fall accidents. But from a recent observation, maintenance is lacking some parts of the Skywalk. I observed a leaky roof that lead to wet carpet on an internal walkway in the US Bank building in August.
I recently represented a downtown office worker who feared being assaulted walking to her parking spot late at night. Skywalks can help reduce the risk of employees being assaulted on the way to their cars.
My view is that downtown business owners and the city need to work together to maintain the skywalk system in the interest of worker safety.