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What is a "workplace" for workers' compensation purposes?

In the previous century, the definition of the "workplace" was fairly narrow. Most people walked into an office building, a manufacturing plant, or onto a piece of land where they would perform their job responsibilities. But as industries evolved into nationwide and even international conglomerates, the "traditional" workplace could be extrapolated to work being done on a company's job site in another state or even another country.

So where does an employee have to be to qualify for workers' compensation benefits when an injury occurs?

The California Department of Industrial Relations has tried to answer some of these questions with its definitions of "work-relatedness." For the purpose of this article, we will look specifically at injuries that occur while an employee is traveling.

The first definition that must be established is the "work environment" when it is not the traditional workplace. In addition to the physical location, the "environment" includes "equipment or materials" used in the course of employment.

The second question is whether the act that led to the injury in the work environment was work-related. The key phrase used to start answering this question is whether the activity was being performed "in the interest of the employer."

But even this definition is far from precise. Also, if the travel involves an overnight stay, another factor may come into play. Checking into a hotel or motel can be considered to be a "home away from home." At that point, activities that occur at "home," i.e., the hotel room, may be equated to those that would happen at home away from the workplace when the employee is not traveling.

So the hotel room, even though the employee would not be there except for the need to be in that city to conduct business for the employer, may not be considered a work "environment."

As with many other issues involving workers' compensation claims, the answers are far from black-and-white. Any injury that could be work-related, whether onsite or at another location, or even in another city, can be subject to different interpretations by the employee, the employer and the workers' compensation insurer.

The advice of an experienced workers' compensation attorney in California can help determine whether your injury is indeed work-related.

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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