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Delisi v. Woolfington Body Company

2003-2854 (Div. Of Workers' Compensation 2004) (Unpublished)

WORKERS COMPENSATION; GOING AND COMING RULE—An employee is not entitled to workers compensation benefits for an injury that occurs while the employee is traveling to work, even if the accident happens during a block of time for which the employee would have been paid had the employee already arrived at work.

An employee worked two part-time jobs. While traveling between positions, she was involved in an accident. She then sought workers compensation benefits from the job to which she was traveling. Her employer contended that since the accident occurred while the employee was on her way to work, she was barred from receiving benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-36. The employee argued that since she earned her wages during specific blocks of time during the work day and her accident occurred during a working period where she would normally be on a required work “run,” she was entitled to compensation under either the “special mission” or “travel time” rule.

Generally, the “going and coming” rule precludes the award of workers compensation benefits for accidental injuries sustained during routine travel to and from work. The rule is based on the assumption that an employee’s travel to and from work neither benefits the employer nor exposes the employee to risks peculiar to a specific industry. Thus, an injury that occurs during such travel is compensable only if the employer requires its employee to be away from the place of employment or the employee is engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned by the employer.

Based on this principle, the Court found that the employee was not involved in job duties that would qualify as a “special mission” or as employee “travel time,” at the time of the injury. No part of her travel was for the benefit of her employer. Although the accident occurred during the time period within which she would normally be conducting her afternoon “run,” as was required by her job, she had not yet arrived at work and she failed to show that she was actually engaged in the direct performance of her employment duties. She was not even in an employer-authorized vehicle at the time of the accident. Therefore, the Court rejected her contention that only the precise timing of the accident brought that event within the travel time exception. Had she been returning to work on time, she clearly would not have been able to recover compensation. Thus, the Court refused to award compensation solely because the employee was running late.

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