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Traveling employee injured driving home from work celebration: Workers’ comp?

A traveling sales representative was on his way home from a work celebration when he was injured in a car crash. Did a court rule he should receive workers’ comp benefits for his injuries? 

Jonathan Peters worked for Cintas as a uniform sales representative out of Allentown, PA. Sometimes Peters would work at home. He would also meet with contacts to present Cintas products. He worked about two days a week in the office and the rest of the week in the field.

On Feb. 27, 2015, Peters was on the road for a full day, in locations that were a significant drive away from the office. After his last appointment of the day, he drove to Allentown to attend a celebration with co-workers at the Tilted Kilt. Peters passed the exit for his home on the way to the party.

While driving home after the party, Peters was involved in a car crash and he suffered multiple injuries. He filed a workers’ comp claim seeking disability benefits. Cintas denied the claim.

A Workers’ Comp Judge agreed with Cintas because Peters failed to meet his burden of proving that he was in the course and scope of employment at the time of his car crash. Peters took his case to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board which upheld the WCJ’s opinion. Next Peters appealed to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

Clear departure from employment?

A previous Pennsylvania workers’ comp court decision says traveling employees are entitled to a presumption that they’re in the course and scope of employment when they’re traveling to or from work.

However, there are limits to that presumption. If the travel is a clear departure from employment, it isn’t covered by workers’ comp.

Peters argued that he was traveling from a work function to his home, and his injuries during that trip should be covered by workers’ comp.

But the WCJ had found that the party at Tilted Kilt wasn’t a work function that benefited the company. The WCJ also noted that Peters passed his home on the way to the party, and that took him out of the course and scope of employment.

The Commonwealth Court found no reason to disagree with the findings of the WCJ. It upheld the decision that Peters wasn’t in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured on the way home from the party at the Tilted Kilt. Peters would not receive workers’ comp benefits.

(Jonathan Peters v. Cintas CorporationCommonwealth Court of PA, No. 1835 C.D. 2017, 7/18/19)

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