Illinois Standards for Traveling Employees Continue to Shift in Favor of the Employee
Updated: Jul 9
For the longest time, if you were hurt while coming from or going to work, then it was a personal injury and not covered by work comp. Over the past eight years or so this has been evolving though and the answer is no longer as simple as one might think. Now there are a number of factors that must be considered when performing this equation. The most significant of them are the nature of the work being performed, the location the work is being performed at, and if the injury occurred during extra-curricular but foreseeable activities. The first element to consider is the type of work being performed. If travel is an inherent part of the work then that will strongly weigh in the favor of the employee. For example a delivery driver who runs all over town or even all over a broader delivery route, will likely be found to still be in the course of their employment when they drive their company vehicle home from the last delivery site. This is an expected part of the job. In contrast the factory worker who drives to the same location every day is likely not within the course of their employment during an automobile accident. Determining what counts and what doesn’t count as traveling employment is no longer as clear as it once was. The courts have ruled again and again in favor of the injured worker as they have slowly expanded these definitions. For example, an office employee who is asked to pick up donuts for the office before coming to work, is likely within the course of her employment while driving from her home to the bakery. The possibilities are almost endless and can require an expert to distinguish. The second element to consider is where the work is being performed. The courts have repeatedly found that an employee working off site can be considered a traveling employee and thus any injury that occurs may be a work related injury. This might apply equally to the carpenter traveling to a job site in another county as well as to an employee who is loaned out to another store for a limited duration. The key being that the work is performed away from the employer’s regular place of business or specifically away from where the employee’s normal work station is located. The final element can be one which is most counter-intuitive. It has been a long standing principle in Illinois that an employer benefits from their employee doing certain things for personal comfort. Examples of this might include something as mundane as using the bathroom. This principle gets expanded greatly when an employee is traveling for work. It is necessary and desirable for the employer that a traveling employee eat meals and even partake in some recreational activities. Thus if your job has you away from home, almost any reasonable activity that you participate in may be covered as a work injury. Parsing out what is and what is not covered can be a challenge, especially given how the courts have continued to change the definitions. While the changes have overall been beneficial to the injured worker, many employers still respond based upon outdated models. This can lead to denied claims and employees who take on the responsibility for their own injuries rather than getting the coverage provided to them by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If you have questions regarding this, it is always a good idea to seek out a free consultation from a qualified work comp attorney, such as those at Strong Law Offices.