Suppose that one of your employees slipped and fell after his scheduled shift. He had already clocked out, but the fall occurred on company property.  You may be wondering if the accident is covered by workers’ compensation.

It depends. Under West Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws, an injury that occurs on the employer’s premises after working hours may be compensable, but it will determine on what the employee was doing at the time of injury, where on the employer’s premises the injury occurred, and how long it had been since the employee had clocked out.

Simply because an injury occurred on the employer’s premises does not necessarily mean that it is compensable. Workers’ compensation may cover injuries sustained by an employee while going to or coming from work, if those injuries are sustained in the “zone of employment.”  The zone of employment means more than just the employer’s property — it must have some proximate relation to the work in which the employee is engaged.  There is no hard-and-fast rule to determine whether a particular off-duty injury is compensable; each case must be decided by its own facts and circumstances.

Some of the facts and circumstances to consider are: What was the employee doing at the time of injury? If the employee was socializing with friends, the injury probably won’t be compensable.  But if the employee was walking out of the facility to go home, it might be.  Where did the injury occur?  If it was somewhere that the employee normally would be while going to or coming from work, such as a locker room or parking lot, the injury will probably be compensable.  On the other hand, if the employee was eating in a cafeteria before going home, the injury might not be compensable.  And, under normal circumstances, an employee’s use of a public highway going to or coming from work is not considered to be in the course of employment.   How long had it been since the employee clocked out?  If the injury occurred shortly after clocking out, within a reasonable time for the employee to still be on the employer’s premises on the way home, it might be compensable.  However, if the injury happened quite some time after the employee finished work, when there was no valid reason for the employee to still be on the premises, it might not be compensable.

If the injury is not covered by workers’ compensation, then the employer might be liable for any negligence in a civil suit. Because these situations are so fact-dependent, you should consult your legal counsel and discuss the particulars to decide on the best course of action.

Mark Jeffries focuses his practice in the area of labor and employment law. He has represented employers in wrongful discharge and discrimination cases in state and federal court, as well as before the West Virginia Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
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