Q. If an employee leaves company premises during his designated paid or unpaid breaks (without clocking out) to get food or go shopping, is the company liable if the employee is involved in an incident? — Denise, Louisiana
A. If the employee harmed a third party, the fact that the employee was ostensibly “working” at the time might be a factor in determining whether the company could be held liable. But the fact that the employee was “on the clock” at the time would not be likely to be the deciding factor in determining whether the employer was liable for the employee’s actions.
On the other hand, if the employee was injured, the test for coverage under the workers’ compensation laws is almost always an examination of whether the incident “arose out of” the employment and occurred “in the course of” the employment.
You might assume that an employee’s trip to get a meal during the workday was not sufficiently work-related to trigger workers’ compensation coverage. But if an employee had to leave the premises in order to get a meal because there was little or no other way to access food, the incident might be deemed to have arisen in the course and scope of the employment.