It is not uncommon for an injury or accident to occur when you are not physically at your office, job site, or place of business. The question that often arises is, “when does the workday begin and end?” The answer to this question lies within the Court’s interpretation of the principal known as the “premises rule” or the “going and coming rule.” Generally, this principal of worker’s compensation law provides that an injury or accident that occurs during an employee’s travel to and from his or her place of employment will not be covered by worker’s compensation insurance. The purpose behind this is that the employee is not under the employer’s control while transporting to and from work. Being under the “employer’s control” is a key aspect to determining whether you have begun your workday and are covered by worker’s compensation insurance.
New Jersey law defines “employment” as beginning once an “employee arrives at the employer’s place of employment to report for work” and ending “when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment.” N.J.S.A. 34:15-36. This is the general rule of determining when an accident or injury may be covered by worker’s compensation insurance. Of course, as with most law, there are grey areas that must be covered by exceptions to the general rule. The statutory definition goes on to provide that is an employee is required by an employer to be away from the employer’s place of employment “the employee shall be deemed to be in the coursed of employment when engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer…” This means that if your employer requires that you go on a “special mission” where you have to perform duties associated with your employment, but it requires you to be away from where you typically work, you may be covered by worker’s compensation insurance. Additionally, employment is deemed to have commenced during paid travel time and also with the use of an employer’s vehicle to travel to and from any job.
Another statutory exception to the “going and coming rule” or “premises rule” is when employees travel through a ride-sharing arrangement between their residence and place of employment. This exception only applies if the vehicle used for the ride-sharing arrangements is owned, leased, or contracted for by the employer, or the use of the ride-sharing arrangement is a required condition of employment. Also, policemen, firemen, or first aid or rescue squad members who are traveling to and from an emergency which they were responding to, are considered to be in the course of employment.
The statutory exceptions to the “going and coming rule” expand the definition of the “course of employment” and broaden the coverage of worker’s compensation. This expansion, while helpful, still leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis. Answering the question of ‘where does the employer’s control begin and end’ is not clear cut and the determination is very often not black and white.
Matthew R. Tavares focuses his practice in Litigation, Employment Law, Workers Compensation and Municipal Court matters. He is a trained mediator and has successfully mediated small claims and special civil part matters.
Mr. Tavares received his Juris Doctor from Western New England University School of Law in 2013, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History and Criminal Justice in 2010 from the University of Delaware. Matt is a member of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is scheduled to be admitted to the New York State Bar in February 2016.
You may contact Matt at (908) 751-1551, or firstname.lastname@example.org.