The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a decision yesterday, in Keim v. Above All Termite & Pest Control, in which it held that an employee is “in the course of employment” and may have a right to workers compensation benefits “when (1) the employer authorizes a vehicle for operation by the employee, and (2) the employee’s operation of that identified vehicle is for business expressly authorized by the employer.”
The employer had appealed a decision of the Appellate Division, which had overturned a Workers’ Compensation Judge’s dismissal of the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employee worked as a pest control technician and had been provided a vehicle for work purposes by his employer. The company’s policy allowed the employee to travel from his home to various job sites and back in the company vehicle. The policy also set a limit on the amount of supplies that could be stored in the vehicles overnight. Technicians were permitted to go to the company’s shop to restock supplies before heading to their job sites, as per the company’s policy. One morning, after clocking in and receiving his work schedule, the employee determined that he needed more supplies and drove the work vehicle to the company’s shop. While driving to the shop, the employee was involved a car accident.
The Workers Compensation Court rejected dismissed the employee’s claim, stating that the employee was merely commuting to work at the time of the accident. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that the “authorized vehicle rule” made the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision, finding that the employee was performing his job duties under the “authorized vehicle rule” when the accident occurred because he was using the company-provided vehicle within the boundaries of his job and the company’s policy. The Court noted that the employee was on his way to the company’s shop to pick up additional supplies for his workday, as allowed by the company’s policy, and he was therefore not simply commuting to work when the accident happened.
A copy of the decision in Henry Keim v. Above All Termite & Pest Control: https://www.njcourts.gov/system/files/court-opinions/2023/a_30_22.pdf