The issue of whether a travelling employee’s activity is in furtherance of the employer’s business and affairs, and therefore in the scope of employment, is difficult to determine.
If a travelling employee is injured after setting out on the business of the employer, it is presumed that the employee is in the course and scope of employment when the injury occurs. However, this is not without limits. The courts have to look at the employee’s activity and the circumstances surrounding the injury event. They must look to see if the employee is engaged in an activity that was reasonable and incidental to the employment duties at the time. If the court cannot find that the activity is reasonable and incidental to his/her job, then any claim will be denied.
Because these types of claims are very fact sensitive, the Court decisions tend to be difficult to predict. For example, a travelling employee who died in a motel bathtub from hyperthermia, due to hypoglycemia resulting from his physical activities at work, was in the course of employment. Nevertheless, benefits were denied for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident that occurred while the employee was driving back to the hotel where the employee had been staying during a job-related seminar. The reason benefits were denied was because the employee had been pursuing personal interests of sightseeing and drinking. Benefits were also denied to a pilot on layover, who was killed in a fall from a hotel room, but not the room provided by the employer. The result may have been different if the fall was from the hotel room provided by the employer.
Questions regarding whether one is in the course and scope of employment, or whether an activity is in furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs, can be extremely complicated. If you have any questions as to whether you are in the course and scope of your employment, please contact Stark & Stark’s Workers’ Compensation Group.