What Does it Mean to Be “In the Course and Scope” of Employment?

If you have been injured on the job, you may have heard the phrase “in the course and scope of employment.” It is possible you heard it from your employer or their insurer saying that your injury did not happen in the course and scope of your employment.

This phrase is something insurers will use as an excuse to deny your claim for compensation. But, what does it mean? What counts as being in the course and scope of employment? And, could your injury actually be covered despite what your employer or their insurer are telling you?

There are several ways to establish that your injury occurred in the course and scope of your employment. The first is to show that you were furthering your employer’s business. And the second is to show that you were injured by a condition of the premises while required to be there.

Furthering Your Employer’s Business

Industrial worker

What does it mean to be furthering your employer’s business? Simply put, this means you were doing anything that benefits the company. In most cases, this means doing your job. Though, even some tasks outside of your job description could count.

A warehouse worker who suffers a back injury while lifting boxes as part of their job would qualify for Workers’ Compensation. And, an office worker who suffers the same injury after being asked by their boss to help carry boxes into the office may qualify as well.

Additionally, you can be furthering your employer’s business regardless of whether you are on company property. For example, a delivery driver who is injured in a crash while working isn’t on company property. But, they were still furthering their employer’s business and so would likely be covered.

Generally, commuting to and from work is not considered to be “in the course and scope of employment.” However, there are exceptions to that rule.

It is also worth noting that an injury sustained while working from home may be covered. It all depends on what you were doing at the time of your injury and the duties of your job.

Injuries Caused by the Premises

Injuries not covered by workers' compensation

Sometimes, if you are injured on your employer’s property without furthering their business, you may be covered by Workers’ Compensation. There are two criteria that must be met for this to be the case.

First, your injury must occur during a time when you are required to be on the premises. You may be in the parking lot a few minutes before or after your shift, you may be on call and have to wait around on-site all day, or you may be waiting to receive a shipment and need to be there whenever it happens to show up. The point is that even if you are not actively working, you have to be at the work location.

Second, your injury has to be caused by a condition of the premises. This could be a wet floor, a tripping hazard, objects that are precariously stacked, etc. If a dangerous environmental condition at work is what caused your injuries, you will probably be eligible for Workers’ Compensation.

The Personal Comfort Doctrine

Restroom personal comfort doctrine

The Personal Comfort Doctrine outlines exceptions to the rules of being in the course and scope of employment. Specifically, it says that stepping away from your position momentarily for personal comfort reasons does not remove you from the course and scope of employment.

What does this mean for the average worker? It means short breaks, such as using the restroom, smoking, etc. are typically viewed as being part of employment. Even grabbing a quick snack during downtime at work has been shown to count. But, what qualifies as a short break may be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Longer breaks, such as lunch breaks off of the premises, generally don’t count within the personal comfort doctrine.

Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Media, PA

An experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney can help to argue that you were in the course and scope of employment when your injury occurred. They will know the bad faith tactics insurance companies use to deny claims. And they will know the best ways to get you the compensation you deserve.

My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg, and I have been solely practicing workers’ compensation law in the State of Pennsylvania since 1995. If you have been injured on the job, please contact my law office today. I will fight for your right to compensation after a workplace injury.

The advice offered above is general in nature and may not be applicable to every case. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. Reliance on this advice does not represent the formation of an attorney-client relationship in the absence of a fee agreement with Mr. Hillsberg.