Employee is injured while driving for coffee: Is he due workers’ comp? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Employee is injured while driving for coffee: Is he due workers’ comp?

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In most states, employees can earn workers’ comp coverage for injuries that occur “in the course of employment.” That can be a fuzzy term. You be the judge.

The case: A plumber for a New Jersey plumbing company drove to a work site but the person he was meeting wasn’t available for 45 minutes. He decided to drive to a deli five miles away to get coffee. On the way, he was involved in a traffic accident and broke both legs. The New Jersey workers’ comp agency awarded him 100% benefits. The employer appealed, saying the accident didn’t arise “in the course of employment.” Was he due workers’ comp?

The ruling: A state appeals court rejected the company’s argument and awarded the benefits. It said the plumber engaged in “exactly the kind of brief activity which if embarked on by an inside employee working under set time and place limitations, would be compensable.”

The lesson: When off-site employees are injured in accidents during slight diversions (such as coffee breaks), courts will probably say they’re equivalent to on-site worker diversions, meaning they’d be eligible for workers’ comp.

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