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Employment Blog

Traveling to Work - New Employer Liability

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on January 6, 2014
Filed under Employment

Employers understand they may be liable for employee injuries that arise while an employee is reporting to work, such as an automobile accident on the way to work or an injury when walking into the company premises from the parking lot. These potential areas of liability arise from the worker's compensation statute in the state of Wisconsin that provides generous benefits under circumstances where an employee is in the process of reporting for work.

There are cases starting to develop on the West Coast (California) which suggests an employer may be liable for injuries caused by an employee to another person while the employee is traveling into work. These cases arise under the theory that the employer requires the employee to use her vehicle during work hours, therefore travel from home to work is connected to employment because of that requirement. Different jurisdictions in California are split on whether or not an automobile accident that occurs while an employee is driving into work would result in liability to the employer for injuries sustained by another person. Several cases are working their way through the California court system with different results so a final clarification of potential liability will happen in the near future.

There is no clear ruling on this topic in the state of Wisconsin. Employers can be held liable for injuries an employee suffers while traveling to or from work under various theories in the worker's compensation arena but no clear ruling has found an employer liable for injuries caused by an employee coming to work who becomes involved in an automobile accident and injures another person. The connectedness to the company and the requirement that an employee have a vehicle at work to perform her duties is the linchpin to finding the employer responsible for the injuries suffered by another person but a case of that type has not been ruled upon in Wisconsin. It is another area of potential employer liability we must be concerned about.

As we embark upon a new year, Ruder Ware will continue to blog about new developments in the field of employment and labor relations law. Happy new year to everyone.