Course and Scope of Employment

When a worker classified as an employee sustains a work-related injury in California, he or she will likely be entitled to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are designed to help pay for necessary medical expenses, necessary medical equipment, prescription drugs, and to replace lost income.  The workers compensation system helps protect workers from unscrupulous employers looking to maximize profits while putting employees in danger, but also helps protect employers by preventing law suits and placing restrictions on how many benefits an employee can receive, depending on the severity of injury, for example.  One way an employer receives protection from the workers’ compensation system is the “course and scope” rule.

An employee is only eligible for workers’ compensation benefits when he or she is acting in the “course and scope” of employment.  The “course” of employment refers to the tasks that are involved in the performance of an employee’s duties.  Most pointedly, it refers to those duties that must be carried out during a particular time, as outlined by the employer.  The “scope” of employment looks more to the intention of the employer and employee, as it refers to the activities necessary to carry out the person’s job, especially those that are reasonably foreseeable by the employer and are reasonably related to the employee’s job description.

In the context of workers’ compensation, an employee must be acting both in the course and scope of his or her employment when the injury occurs in order to be eligible to receive benefits through the workers’ compensation system.  Whether the injury occurred in the course and scope of an employee’s job, however, can be a more complicated question than it first appears.  For example, an employee simply driving to work who gets in a car accident will not typically be able to go through workers’ compensation.  However, if the employee is driving between job sites, as is required for employment, a car accident in that scenario could fall under the employee’s course and scope of employment.  Similarly, if a person trips and falls while walking home from work, that would not be covered.  Conversely, if that person was going to stop by the bank on the way home to make a deposit for the employer, then those injuries from that same fall may be compensable.

We have extensive experience in helping our clients understand their business’s rights and responsibilities with respect to workers’ compensation.  Call us today for a consultation.

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