Geaney: When Does the Particular Mission Exception to the Premises Rule Apply?| Staff Compensation Information

from John H. Geaney

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 | 0

One of the most misunderstood rules in employee compensation is the so-called “special mission” exception to the premise rule, which is New Jersey’s successor to the more popular “going-and-coming” rule.

John H. Geaney

The New Jersey Premises Rule states that one is at work when he or she arrives at the work site. The main exception to this rule is the special mission exception. This exception is confusing because few read the actual letter of the law. Many believe that the special assignment applies when an employee has to have unusual car trips or unusual working hours. Maybe that’s not true.

The law actually says: “If the employee is asked by the employer to stay away from the employer’s office, the employee is considered to be gainfully employed if the employee is instructed or instructed by the employer to carry out the work directly.” from NJSA 34: 15-36.

Consider some common scenarios:

  1. An employee works for a major grocer and reports to a field office in Cherry Hill on a daily basis, but once a year the employee must report to the employer’s headquarters in Jersey City for an annual review. The employee is injured in a car accident when returning to his apartment from Jersey City. Special order?
  2. An employee is admitted to an educational seminar in Los Angeles, comes to the hotel, takes a warm, hot bath in the evening, slips and falls on the floor of the hotel bathroom and breaks her thighbone. Special order?
  3. The caretaker of a large rental complex is called at 9 p.m. to come back to work immediately because the power goes out in the employer’s building, where the caretaker works from 9 to 5. Special order?
  4. The HR manager leaves work on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., but receives a call on her way home and is supposed to come to work on Saturday at 9 a.m. for a special meeting. Special order?
  5. A defense attorney leaves home Monday morning and drives to Paterson Labor Court, where the attorney goes every three weeks to work on a regular list. On the way she is involved in a serious car accident. Special order?

All of these scenarios have one thing in common: they are unusual assignments by the employee either in places where the employee does not normally work, or at times when the employee does not normally work. But only two of these scenarios would pass the test of a special mission. If you guessed the numbers 2 and 5, you are correct.

In number 2, the employee is at an approved seminar at a location remote from the employer’s premises at the time of slipping. The presence of the employee in the hotel room is expected and is required to complete the work order.

In number 5, defense counsel is obliged by the employer to travel to a location remote from the employer’s place of work in order to perform judicial tasks. The accident happened on the way to the court.

But examples 1, 3 and 4 would not represent a special mission. Why not? Number 1 is simply because the employee reports to the employer’s office in Jersey City. It doesn’t matter that the employee doesn’t normally work here. The regulation states that it must be “outside the employer’s place of work”. This is the company headquarters!

The same result applies to numbers 3 and 4. Even if the employees in numbers 3 and 4 perceive their assignments as unusual and rather demanding (long drive to work or Saturday work), the test does not determine whether there is a deviation from the regular work plan. It is checked whether the employee is obliged by the employer to be absent from the employer. They both reported to their normal workplaces. For the numbers 1, 3 and 4 the normal premise rule applies.

The second part of the special mission exception is easier to understand. If an accident occurs outside the employer’s place of work, the employee must be engaged in the immediate exercise of his or her duty to work so that the accident can be compensated.

So in the first example, if the Los Angeles seminar staff member is a baseball fan and decides to travel to Chavez Ravine alone one night to watch the Dodgers play the Giants and fall in the stadium, that injury would not be covered because the game has nothing to do with the remote work order.

What would be covered in remote work or a seminar? Courts have found that injuries while dining in a hotel or walking into a room are certainly covered.

Bringing customers to another hotel for dinner or a sporting event during a seminar would certainly be covered. That makes sense, but not everything you do on an approved trip is as insured as not everything you do in a normal work environment. For example, the fitness-obsessed worker who jumps rope during breaks and falls does not win an accident at work, even if the injury occurs at the employer.

John H. Geaney is an attorney, director, and shareholder in Capehart Scatchard, a defense law firm in New Jersey. This post is published with permission from Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Comp Blog.

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