It was a long day at work and Bobby was in a hurry to get to his son’s football scrimmage across town. As he rounded the corner in the company parking lot and rushed to his car, he slipped and fell on his wrist, breaking it in two places. Ouch! Instead of driving to the football field, he ended up in the ER.
Is Bobby’s injury compensable, since it happened in a parking lot owned by his employer? Under general standards normally used to determine whether an injury occurred in the course of and arising out of employment, yes, Bobby’s injury is compensable.
A worker need not necessarily be injured in the actual performance of his work for the employer. Instead, it is sufficient if the employee was engaged in an activity consistent with the contract of hire and logically related to their employer’s business. Let’s say that you clocked out at 5 p.m. and the parking lot injury occurs at 5:15 p.m. The fact that you are not being paid while performing the activity—in this case, walking to your car—is not a bar to being in the course of employment.
If the injury occurs immediately before or after your work shift, as in Bobby’s case, or while you are coming to or leaving work, this is a strong basis for concluding that your presence in the parking lot is consistent with your “contract of hire and logically related to your employer’s business.”
HOWEVER, the employer’s ownership and control of the parking lot is a key factor in determining whether the injury is compensable. If the employer does NOT own or control the parking lot, a court would like apply the “coming and going” rule, which states that an employee with a fixed place of employment (limiting injuries to the actual building you are working in), who is injured while traveling to or from a place of employment, is not covered by workers’ compensation laws. (See the earlier posts in this blog for more details on “coming and going” rules.