When is an employee not an employee? It may seem like a silly question, but it is a question that is constantly addressed by New Jersey courts determining whether injuries are covered by workers compensation.

Consider some examples of cases the courts have decided:

  • A department store employee is injured while shopping in the store during her lunch break.
  • An employee of a business in a multi-tenant building punches out on the time clock, then is injured on his way down the stairs.
  • A store associate is injured while walking to the designated employee area of a mall parking lot.
  • A child abuse case worker is followed home by a client and assaulted in her apartment.

Now, picture this: It is Monday morning and your alarm wakes you up at the crack of dawn. You put on a business suit, or perhaps a uniform, and watch the clock to make sure you are out the door on time. As you drive to your workplace, your mind is so engulfed in thought about all the work waiting for you that you get distracted and have an accident. Were you acting as an employee at that moment?

Historically, cases such as these have fallen under the doctrine of the Going and Coming Rule, which states that workers compensation does not apply to injuries sustained during routine travel to and from the regular workplace of an employee. The law defines employment as beginning when the employee arrives at work and ending when the employee leaves, but the courts have often concluded that injuries sustained while going or coming did, in fact, meet the test of having arisen out of and in the course of employment. The specific facts of your workers compensation case make all the difference.