Under the PA Workers’ Comp Act, generally speaking, a worker is not eligible for Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits when he or she is commuting to work. Under the law, the worker is not “in the scope of employment” at that time. One exception to this rule is for “traveling employees,” who are usually in the scope and course of their employment while moving from place to place. Obviously, it is advantageous for an injured worker who is hurt commuting to work to be found to be a “traveling employee.”
In a recent case, Jamison v. WCAB (Gallagher Home Health), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that a home health nurse, who was hurt commuting to her assignment, was a traveling employee, despite the fact she worked for three different employers (sometimes all on the same day). The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) had found that Claimant was not a traveling employee, because she could be working for any of her three employers on any given day. As such, the WCJ denied the Claim Petition.
In reversing the WCJ, the Court found that claimant was a traveling employee with regard to her home health nurse job (the issue of multiple employers was essentially irrelevant). Once found to be a traveling employee, claimant was entitled to a presumption that she was working for her employer at the time she was driving from her home to the patient’s house. To prevail and defeat the claim, the workers’ compensation insurance company would have to prove the claimant abandoned her duties for the employer (for instance, by proving that claimant was actually on her way to work at one of her other jobs). Since the workers’ comp insurance carrier failed to prove this, the WCJ erred in denying workers’ compensation benefits to claimant.