Employment, for most people, requires a considerable amount of travel. Some employees spend more time traveling, perhaps to meet with potential or existing clients, than they do at their workplace. Most others travel to work from a residence, while travel to restaurants is a part of the workday for many. Travel that is incident to employment can be as hazardous, if not more so, than operating from the workplace itself, which presents the risk of a work-related injury.
An amendment to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act, introduced in 2013, seeks to limit the scope of travel-related injuries that are eligible for workers’ compensation in Illinois. Specifically, the bill seeks to eliminate the capacity for injuries that may occur while commuting to or from the workplace from consideration in workers’ compensation cases in the state.
Active engagement necessary
The language in the bill, describing the conditions governing the compensability of an injury incurred during travel, is specific. Per Section 5(d), “An employee who is required to travel in connection with his or her employment and who suffers an injury while in travel status shall be eligible for benefits only if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment.”
The key component of this statement is the qualifier to “out of and in the course of employment.” Specifically, eligibility for workers’ compensation requires the injured worker to have been “actively engaged in the duties of employment” when the injury took place. This language calls into question eligibility of injuries incurred during the following common activities:
- Commuting to or from work
- Leaving the workplace for a meal
- Leaving the workplace for a medical appointment
Indeed, the concept of “actively engaged in the duties of employment” is definable through at least one of two criteria. The first criterion is that the employer compensated the traveling event in question. Examples could include the employer paying the cost of fueling the car and covering the cost of lodging at a hotel. The second criterion is that the employer mandated the traveling event as part of the employee’s job duties.
Specific commuting exclusion
Finally, the bill adds language that seeks to remove all doubt about the eligibility of commuting injuries. “Arising out of and in the course of employment does not include travel to and from work.” While the amendment provides further clarification for the eligibility of this category of work-related injuries, employees who are injured during work-related travel should consult with a workers’ compensation attorney.