What Is In the “Course and Scope of Employment?

Workers’ compensation is a system designed to protect both employees and employers after an employee sustains a work-related injury.  The process protects the employee by providing a method for the employee to receive medical treatment and disability benefits.  The process also protects employers by preventing an employee from receiving disability benefits and also suing the employer for damages.  In order to receive compensation for injuries and disability benefits, an employee must have sustained the injury in the course and scope of employment.  Accordingly, when moving forward with a workers’ compensation case, it is important for an employer to understand what “course and scope of employment” means in the context of workers’ compensation.

In its simplest terms, asking whether an employee was acting in the course and scope of employment is asking whether the employee was “working” for the employer at the time the injury occurred.  One of the easiest ways to figure this out is to ask whether at the time the injury occurred, was the employee doing something to benefit the employer.  For example, if an employee takes a break and drives to the post office to mail a personal letter, and is injured in a car accident on the way back to work, this would not be in the course and scope of employment.  However, if while at the post office, the employee also takes the time to mail several packages on behalf of the employer, then any injury sustained in the accident may very well be covered by workers’ compensation.

Employers should be careful not to always assume that any injury sustained by an employee occurred in the course and scope of employment.  This is true even if the employee is injured while on company property.  If the employee is not working at the time he or she was injured, then the injury did not occur in the course and scope of the job.  This would most often be seen where the employee has come into work on a day when he or she is not working, and is there to socialize or conduct personal business.  For example, if you own a grocery store and your employee comes in on his day off to buy groceries, he would not be eligible for workers’ compensation if he is injured at that time.  In other words, for an employee to recover under workers’ compensation, he needs to be performing something work-related at the time.

We have extensive experience helping our clients understand the requirements of a workers’ compensation claim.  Call us today to talk about your case and your business.

Car Accidents and Workers’ Compensation

The borderline between work and leisure has eroded significantly for many people in recent years.  Laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices have made it simple to stay connected and do work from many different locations.  It is not uncommon for people to leave the office, drive home, boot up their home computer and continue to work.  Blurring the line between work and home can sometimes create confusion regarding workers’ compensation and when an employee is eligible for benefits.  To be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, an employee must demonstrate that the injury is work related, meaning it is connected to a job-related purpose.  If an employee is injured while at the place of business, the injury is typically (although not always) considered work-related.  However, if the employee is injured while driving, it is possible that the employee may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Commuting to and from work is not typically considered part of employment, even if the employee intends to work more once arriving home.  It is important for an employer to understand when the business may be liable for workers’ compensation benefits when the employee was driving.

Like other injuries, to demonstrate that the injury sustained while driving is covered under workers’ compensation, the driving must be work-related.  The inquiry will focus on whether the reason for the driving is related to the employee’s job duties.  For example, if the employee decides to drive to the local store to buy a snack and gets in an accident, that will likely not be covered under workers’ compensation. However, if the same employee was going to the store to purchase items at the direction of his or her boss to use at the business, then the injury would be covered under workers’ compensation, even if the employee happened to pick up the snack while at the store.  In essence, the inquiry is whether the purpose for the driving was for the business, and done in the course and scope of the employee’s job.

Employers should also note that the workers’ compensation benefits the employee will not be reduced even if the car accident was the employee’s fault.  This is because unlike the system underpinning auto insurance, workers’ compensation is a no fault system.

An important exception to the typical rule that injuries sustained while commuting are not covered by workers’ compensation is if, for example, the employee is driving to a distant work-site that is not the typical office or work space for that employee.

We have experience assisting our clients understand whether their employee’s injuries are work related.  Call us today and let us help you with your business.

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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