Human Resources News & Insights

Employee killed in work carpool: Should benefits be paid?

If you encourage your employees to carpool to work, should benefits be paid out if a worker gets hurt — or worse — in a car crash? See how one court ruled.

Because she didn’t have transportation to a work assignment, an employee for the employment agency Labor Ready received a ride from a co-worker.

The company frequently encouraged employees to ride to work together in the same car.

On the way home, the woman was killed in a car accident, while her co-worker was behind the wheel.

A workers’ comp claim was filed on behalf of the deceased worker’s two children by an administrator of her estate.

The estate’s argument: Since Labor Ready encouraged workers to carpool, it assumed responsibility for transporting employees to and from work sites. Therefore the fatal car accident occurred within the scope of the deceased worker’s employment.

Were benefits awarded?

The decision

No. The court ruled that the estate shouldn’t receive benefits.

The court’s reasoning: The vehicles used to transport employees weren’t company-owned vehicles, Labor Ready had no contract to transport its workers, the company didn’t pay a driver to transport workers and, on the day of the accident, the employee driving wasn’t working.

Generally, travel to and from work isn’t considered to be within the scope of employment. One exception: when the employer takes responsibility to find a way to get its employees to and from work.

In this case, the court didn’t consider encouraging workers to carpool the same as providing transportation.

Cite: The Estate of Janelle M. Riley v. Labor Ready.

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  1. I wonder if this would have been a different verdict had it been proven she was on the phone with the office at the time of the accident.

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