Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Employee Injured While Commuting to Work
Does workers' compensation apply?

Key point 8-07.2. All states have enacted workers compensation laws to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment. Benefits generally are financed through insurance premiums paid by employers. Churches are subject to workers compensation laws in most states.

A federal appeals court ruled that an employee was not engaged in work-related activities while commuting, even though she was taking her employer's computer backup computer disks home for safekeeping, and therefore she was not eligible for workers' compensation benefits as a result of injuries she sustained in an accident. Workers' compensation laws have been enacted in all 50 states. These laws provide compensation to employees as a result of job-related injuries and illnesses. The amount of compensation is determined by law and generally is based upon the nature and extent of the employee's disability. In exchange for such benefits, employees give up the right to sue an employer directly. Fault is irrelevant under workers' compensation laws. The only inquiries are (1) did an employment relationship exist; (2) did the injury occur during the course of employment; and (3) what were the nature and extent of the injuries? Typically, employers purchase insurance to cover the costs of workers' compensation benefits.

A question that sometimes arises is the application of workers' compensation laws to employee injuries that occur when an employee is commuting to or from work. Consider a recent case. An employee of a law firm was responsible for taking the firm's backup computer disk home each workday for safekeeping. She also regularly did some work at home for the firm. One evening, after working a full day on the job, the employee was severely injured in an auto accident. She later filed for benefits under the firm's workers' compensation insurance policy.

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