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Night-Shift Liability

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. Our company doesn't have a policy on night shifts, but we've asked one of our hourly employees to work from 1 to 9 p.m. without any supervision. If something should happen to the employee while on night duty, are we liable for it? I've checked with my state labor department and workers' comp office, and they say we're not. —L.R., Florida

A. You got some bad advice. That worker would be covered under workers' comp. Here's why: An accident or injury is generally covered under workers' compensation laws if it occurs within the course and scope of employment.

Determining whether an employee's injury occurs on the job is the key question. Generally, the answer boils down to whether the employee was acting to further the employer's interest or his own personal pursuit. Because there's no doubt that an employee working the night shift is acting in his employer's interests, an injury during the night shift would be covered. The fact that there's no supervisor on duty is irrelevant.

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