What is an employee’s worksite?
April 14, 2017
• Appellate court sends the question back for a jury to decide
• Could impact businesses that have workers run errands outside of their shifts
A state court of appeal says a construction company may have been wrong when it said the workplace of one of its employees was a job site away from the company offices.
Modern Alloys Inc. had one of its employees commute from home to its offices and then drive a company truck from the yard to the jobsite, I-710 in Los Angeles, transporting coworkers and materials in the truck.
One day, while driving from his home to the yard, Juan Campos collided with a motorcyclist, who sued the construction company. The trial court ruled the employee was commuting to his “work,” and therefore he was not acting within the scope of his employment so the employer was off the hook.
But wait, says the California 4th District Court of Appeal. What is the worker’s real workplace: the construction site or the company yard where he obtained the truck?
Modern Alloys infers that its yard is the employee’s “workplace,” even though it paid Mr. Campos only from the time he arrived at the jobsite.
But if the employee’s jobsite is his “workplace,” then the employee “was arguably on a business errand to the yard for the employer’s benefit, and that business errand would have started when the employee left his home,” says the appellate court.
“Campos transported Modern Alloys’ vehicle, workers, and materials from its yard to the jobsite, and … Modern Alloys did not pay Campos until he reached the jobsite. Thus, there is a reasonable inference that Campos was also on a business errand for Modern Alloys’ benefit while commuting from his home to the yard,” says the ruling. “Because we can draw two reasonable inferences from these undisputed facts, we cannot affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.”
The appellate court says it will be up to a trial court jury to decide of Mr. Campos was on a business errand for the benefit of his employer.
“Thus, the question of whether Campos was engaged in a business errand — and was therefore acting within the scope of his employment — is not a question of law that cannot be resolved in a motion for summary judgment. A jury must consider and weigh all of the relevant circumstances,” the appellate decision says.