Matter of Rodriguez:
This case involved a Claimant who was a train conductor for the New York City Transit Authority. Claimant was on her way to work, taking the subway to her assigned work location. She was wearing her work uniform, and was using a subway pass provided to her by her employer. While she was waiting at a station along the way, a man asked her to let him into the station without paying. When she refused, the man jumped the turnstile and assaulted her, causing multiple injuries to her face, head, neck and back. Claimant applied for Workers’ Compensation benefits, but was denied.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge found that even though Claimant was in the subway system, on her way to work and in uniform, and taking an action that benefited her employer, she was not covered. That decision was affirmed on appeal. The decision was based on the general rule that employees are not covered by Workers’ Compensation during their commute to and from work. While there are recognized exceptions to that rule (such as where the employer is performing a work-related errand during the commute, where the route chosen serves some business purpose of the employer, or where the employer also works from home), it was decided that no exceptions applied in this case.
The decision in Matter of Rodriguez makes it clear that injuries occurring during a commute will rarely be covered by Workers’ Compensation. In this case, the Claimant was already within the subway system where she worked, was in uniform, and was assaulted because she was taking action to protect her employer’s interests. Even so, she was denied benefits. The unfortunate result is that the Claimant will receive no wage replacement awards during her lost time from work. Further, she will have to pay all co-pays and deductibles required by her health insurance, whereas Workers’ Compensation medical coverage has no co-pays or deductibles. While this may be seen as a harsh result, it emphasizes that it is unlikely that a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits due to an injury suffered while commuting will be allowed.
Submitted by Kevin Burgess, Esq.