In most instances, employees who are injured at work can feel confident that their injury falls within the scope of job-related activities or occurred within the course of employment. For instance, someone who pulls a back muscle lifting materials or falls from a ladder while counting inventory was obviously engaged in a job-related activity.
Alternatively, there are some injuries that are clearly outside the course of employment. For example, it is pretty clear that hurting your back while landscaping on the weekend is outside the course of employment, and so is a bad sunburn while on vacation to Mexico.
Need to Define the Term Job-Related Activity
Yet, there are still a number of cases that are not this clear cut. Every day employees have downtime at work or participate in activities that seem job-related, but are not exactly work, such as eating lunch in the staff kitchen or walking out of the office at the end of the day. All of these activities happen at work, but are they in the course of employment?
As well, there are certain activities that do not even happen at the workplace, such as company parties or a work retreat. Employees that are hurt at the company softball game, for instance, probably have a lot of questions regarding workers’ compensation and if the benefits of this program in New Jersey could apply to their situation. These types of activities do not take place at the office, warehouse, or factory where normal job-related activities occur, does this mean they are outside the course of employment?
How New Jersey Determines the Definition
These less certain situations have required New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law and courts to provide more context to employees, employers, insurance companies, and their lawyers regarding what is considered within the course of employment. This happens with most state and federal laws. The legislative body will pass the law, and then the judicial body must assist with determining what specific fact patterns and circumstances fall inside or outside of the applicable law.
Outside the Workplace
One rule that has developed after a number of court cases in New Jersey is that employees who are working outside the workplace, for example sales people or in-home care providers are covered by workers’ compensation when the injury or illness occurs when directly performing their work responsibilities. These injured employees are to be compensated.
This determination extends to employees who are injured in motor vehicle accidents going to or from work-related places. Some instances that are covered under this determination are employees who attend an out of office meeting or must make a delivery for work. However, this is the only travel that is certain to be covered under New Jersey law.
New Jersey workers’ compensation does not compensate for injuries during a commute to or from work. Within the state, this is known as the going-and-coming rule. The work day is not considered to start until the employee is on a premises or location where work is performed or the employer has a certain level of control over the property. The same is true for going home at the end of the day.
Seeking Legal Counsel
If you have more questions regarding what is meant by within the course of employment under New Jersey workers’ compensation law, call the Law Office of Albert J. Talone. Our legal team can answer these questions and other related to workers’ compensation and employee injuries within New Jersey. Our office is available at (856)-234-4023.