Off-The-Clock Work-Related Injuries: Knowing Your Rights

When you get hurt while on the job, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation. But what happens when you’re injured at work while being off-the-clock? There’s a lot of nuance to the law when it comes to these types of work-related accidents, and it’s tricky to know exactly who is legally responsible and whether you’ll be actually covered or not. Here are some tips to help you know what your legal rights are when it comes to off-the-clock work-related injuries.

What is Covered?

Under most workers’ compensation laws, an employer is liable for any injuries that occur while performing duties related to their job, and defines the job as “portal-to-portal.” This means from the time you arrive at work to when you leave. Normally, commuting to and from the office or job site isn’t usually covered, and this includes any travel during lunch breaks. However, there are exceptions to the rule that may entitle you to workers’ compensation even if you’re not technically on the clock.

Injuries on the Premises

The “portal-to-portal” rule doesn’t necessarily mean when you punch in, so the moment you step foot on your employer’s premises, you may be covered. This includes any parking lots, sidewalks, or grassy areas that are a part of the property owned by the company. For example, if you slip and fall on an improperly maintained icy sidewalk while coming to work, even if you haven’t clocked in, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation. However, the professionals at recommend that you get a lawyer for these types of injuries, as “portal-to-portal” is sometimes subject to interpretation. You don’t want to lose out on the compensation you deserve because you aren’t well-versed in the litigation tactics that might be used against you.

Duties Performed on your Employer’s Behalf

If you’re injured while doing something your employer asked you to do outside of your work hours, you will qualify for workers’ compensation. This can include anything like meeting a client for dinner or attending a conference. Even if you’re hurt while traveling to or from the event, your employer may be liable. There are circumstances that could prevent this, such as an accident due to your failure to follow proper traffic laws or being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident. Basically, any crime committed while performing a duty on your employer’s behalf will negate your right to compensation.

Running Work-Related Errands During Breaks

When you leave work for lunch or other breaks, you’re normally not covered since you’re off-the-clock. However, your employer is liable for the injury if something happens to you while you are running any errands for them during your break. This can be things like picking up or dropping off mail and packages, getting them food and beverages or running to a store to purchase an item. As soon as your employer gives you a task to do for them, even if you’re not technically on the clock, you are working within the purview of your job, and thus entitled to workers’ compensation.

Traveling to and from Work

Normally, traveling to and from work isn’t covered by workers’ compensation, but there may be an exception if you are using transportation provided by your employer. Any injuries sustained during an accident or other mishap will likely be considered their responsibility. However, they are not liable if they only provide transportation benefits to you, such as tax breaks for using public transit or carpooling.

Being in the Workplace After-Hours

Getting injured while at work when you’re not supposed to be there is one of the most complicated exceptions for workers’ compensation. Typically, if you make an unscheduled visit to your office or job site and get hurt, you won’t be covered. However, a case can be made if your employer is aware that you often come during after-hours or when you’re not on the clock, and they allow you to do so, by not objecting to your presence, they are consenting to you being there. In these cases, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation if you’re injured while on the premises.

Deciding whether you should or should not file for workers’ compensation will depend on numerous factors, so understanding what those exceptions include will help you make an informed decision. Even if you’re denied the compensation, you can always appeal and argue your case. It’s a good idea to hire a lawyer if you were hurt outside of your working hours, as they will have a better handle on the legal intricacies and how to properly proceed with your case. Keep these tips in mind if you’ve had off-the-clock work-related injuries so you are aware of your legal rights.

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