Imagine this: You send an employee to a job away from home and put him up in a hotel. While not working, your employee injures himself in the hotel swimming pool. Will the injury be covered by workers’ comp?
Antonio Parvool traveled to Hawaii for Tony’s Food Service of California to furnish catering services to movie production crews.
While there, he stayed at a hotel provided by his employer.
One day while he wasn’t working, he dove head-first into the shallow part of the hotel’s pool.
He suffered injuries to his neck, upper extremities, lower extremities and digestive system.
Parvool’s employer wanted to deny him workers’ comp coverage. The employer pointed out he wasn’t on the clock when he was injured.
A California workers’ comp judge ruled Parvool’s injury arose out of voluntary participation of an off-duty recreational activity and wasn’t part of his work-related duties.
An exception to the rule
But Parvool’s attorney argued this was a case of the “commercial traveler” exception.
A commercial traveler is someone on a trip for business purposes, such as a conference or special project. When an employee is a commercial traveler, it’s usually considered that he is always on the clock.
The California Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board reversed the judge’s opinion. It agreed with Parvool’s attorney that this was a commercial traveler case and that it would be unreasonable to expect an employee to remain in a hotel room while far away from home on business travel.
The commercial traveler is just one type of exception to the usual workers’ comp coming and going rule, which says an employee isn’t covered for injuries suffered on the way to or from work. Other exceptions include:
- if a worker has to use his personal vehicle to travel to multiple work sites
- if a worker is asked to perform “a special mission” for the employer while on his way to or from work, and
- when travel is part of their job, such as a delivery truck driver.
What do you think of the appeals board’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.
(Antonio Parvool v. Tony’s Food Services, CA W.C.A.B.)