Worker in car accident during break: Are you liable?

Q. Our company lets employees take two 15-minute paid breaks during their eight-hour shifts. One employee usually leaves the premises during her break and drives to a convenience store. If she were involved in a car accident on the way, would the company have any liability since she is still on the clock? — J.B., New Jersey

A. Probably, yes. Because the employee was on a paid break, her injury would be covered by workers’ compensation. Additionally, any injuries she caused to third parties would probably be the company’s responsibility since she was still acting within the course and scope of her employment.

To avoid these issues, it is best to adopt a policy prohibiting employees from leaving the work site during any paid breaks of less than 20 minutes.