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NY Court Finds Travel From One Job Location To Another Not Necessarily In The Course Of Employment

January 18, 2011

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In Reyes v. MTA Bus Company, a New York trial court analyzed whether an employee traveling from one job location to another was in the course of his employment such that his negligence would be attributable to his employer.
The employee was working as an Individualized Resident Assistant at one of his employer’s residences. He punched out and left the residence. He then drove to another of his employer’s residences to work an overtime shift. During the trip he was involved in an accident with defendant’s bus. The MTA brought a third-party action against the employer, alleging that the employer was vicariously liable for the employee’s negligence. The employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
The employer noted that the employee used his own personal vehicle, was not compensated for the time it took to drive from one residence to the other, and was not entitled to reimbursement for gas or mileage. Also, the employee was not required to work the overtime shift.
The court analyzed New York law regarding whether an employee is acting in the course and scope of his employment when traveling to and from the worksite. The general rule is that an employee is not acting within the scope of his employment during the commute to or from work, but there are instances when the travel can be considered within the scope of employment. For example, employee travel will be considered in the scope of employment when the transportation is provided or paid for by the employer, or where the travel was incidental to the furtherance of the employer’s interest.
In this case, the court noted that the employee was not “on the clock”, was not reimbursed for the travel, was free to refuse the overtime shift and was not on a fixed schedule. Therefore, the court held that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and granted summary judgment to the employer.
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