If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you can probably guess that the answer is “it depends.” For employees with a fixed place of employment, the general rule is that an injury which occurs while traveling to or from the workplace is not compensable, under what’s known as the “coming-and-going rule.” MTD Prods., Inc. v. Robatin, 61 Ohio St.3d 66, (1991).
Keep in mind, however, that is a general rule only. For purposes of this blog post (again having been reminded that sometimes it gets too technical), I’m going to try and keep this as simple as possible. The lawyer in me feels a need to make a disclaimer. It isn’t quite as simple as I’m going to try and make it sound, and if you need to make a decision about a specific factual situation consult an attorney. Or come and see me speak on November 30th at the NBI seminar in Cleveland. Or e-mail me.
The first thing you need to determine is whether the employee has a fixed workplace. Usually that’s pretty straightforward. However, the analysis does not end there. A “fixed-situs employee” can still receive workers’ compensation benefits if the injury occurs:
- within the “zone of employment”; or
- if their job exposes them to travel requirements different from normal employees, such that it constitutes a “special hazard”.
At this point, I have probably already bored you, or got you thinking “what the heck is the ‘zone of employment’?” For those of you in the latter category, the “zone of employment” is an area, generally in control of the employer, which the employee needs to use to get to their actual job. In other words, if an employee drives safely to work only to suffer an injury in the employee parking garage before clocking in, the employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation under the zone-of-employment exception to the coming-and-going rule. Some examples of places that have been found to be in the “zone of employment” are:
– a grocery store employee who fell on cart ramp at entrance to the store where she had come to work before she clocked in;
– an employee attacked by co-worker in front of a nursing home before starting shift;
– an employee who slipped and fell in the parking lot upon return from a personal errand and before clocking in.
As I noted above, the other exception to the “coming and going rule” is when the employee’s job requires them to be exposed to a “special hazard”. The case that developed the “special hazard rule” involved oil riggers who needed to travel long distances to what the Ohio Supreme Court decided were differing fixed places of employment, but whose “employment relationship dictates that the riggers undertake interstate and lengthy intrastate commutes, thereby significantly increasing their exposure to traffic risks associated with highway travel.”