Not long ago the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a ruling affirming two important doctrines with one important takeaway: if you’re injured on the way to work while not on the clock, your injury is not going to be compensable under the Georgia Worker’s Compensation Act. In other words, employer liability, from a Workers Comp standpoint, ends when an employee goes off the clock.
In the case of The Med. Ctr. Inc. v. Hernandez, two employees sustained injuries while traveling to their jobsite in Savannah, GA on a Monday morning. Both employees worked 10-hour days during the week and returned to their respective homes, nearly four hours away in Columbus, GA on weekends. The Monday morning accident occurred approximately five minutes away from the Savannah jobsite.
The Court of Appeals upheld it’s own determination that in order to be compensable, a workers injury must “arise both out of and in the course of employment.” While it has been long settled that commuters on their way to work are out of the spectrum of intended coverage, the primary important note in this matter is that when an employee isn’t on the clock, the “Continuous Employment Doctrine” does not apply. Traveling workers that have yet to commence their work will fall into this category. Because the above-mentioned workers had returned home for the weekend and were on the way back to the jobsite, the court held that they had not yet resumed their duties as employees, thus rendering their claim non-compensable.
This decision, while not groundbreaking, is helpful in explaining how an employer should handle their traveling workers. It also serves to underscore the importance of understanding the boundaries of what Workers Comp will and will not cover.