John and a number of other employees of the Tobyhanna Army Depot participated in a vanpool mass transportation program. Tobyhanna provided vouchers to employees who voluntarily participated to defray the cost of renting or leasing a van. The companies providing the van had to seek approval from Tobyhanna. In November 2009, a van was leased by one of the employees from a transportation leasing company and a number of employees met daily at a nearby parking lot to drive to and from work together. Several employees took turns driving the van. In December 2009, while traveling from the designated parking lot meeting place to Tobyhanna, they were involved in an accident in which several were injured. The question before the court was whether were they injured in the course and in the scope of their employment.
Generally, injuries sustained while an employee is commuting to or from the workplace are not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation act; however, as with most rules, there are a number of exceptions. Pennsylvania courts have recognized exceptions to the rule in circumstances where an employee’s use of a vehicle, although not directly related to the employee’s designated duties and is off-premises, but otherwise furthers his or her employment. Thus, an exception applies where: (1) the employee was commuting to or from work; (2) the employer controlled the means of transportation; and (3) the employer or company provided for the costs and expenses related to the commute. In the case of Kinney, the court found that the employer did not exercise sufficient control of the ride-sharing arrangement and thus the employees were not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
However, the court also applied another statute, the Ridesharing Act, which directly applies to all ridesharing arrangements where no more than 15 passengers are involved in carpools or van pools to transport employees to or from their place of employment. That law specifically provides that the Workers’ Compensation law does not apply to compensate for injuries sustained by an employee while a passenger in such a pool; however, the compensation law does apply to the driver of a company-owned or -leased vehicle used in a ridesharing arrangement.
As can be seen by the Kinney case, the coming-and-going rule and its exceptions are complex and their application to any set of circumstances requires specialized knowledge of the Workers’ Compensation law. Anyone who is injured outside the actual premises of their employer should consult with an experienced Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation attorney.