Do you have employees who drive on company time, use a company vehicle while conducting business on behalf of the company or use a company vehicle outside of work time? Do you have a policy that covers employees who drive?
The general rule is that employers are not responsible for their employees while they are not on duty, and this includes accidents while commuting to and from work. However, in a number of recent cases employers have been held liable for accidents involving employees during their commutes home. In one such case, an employee complained of feeling dizzy after the company sprayed the factory for bugs. The company offered to send the employee to the company doctor, but the employee refused and instead drove home. The employee was subsequently involved in an accident and the employer was sued. The court found that the company could have foreseen and prevented this risk, but chose not to. The takeaway from this case and from cases like it is that employers should not let their employees drive if they believe they might be impaired in any way.
Another potential headache for employers involves traffic tickets. With red light cameras becoming ubiquitous around the area, such tickets have become a major expense for companies that have drivers on the road. The question is who is responsible for a red light ticket? In the case of a speeding ticket, for example, the violation is against the driver. Therefore, the employee is directly responsible for paying the fine. However, with red light or other cameras the violations goes to the owner of the vehicle, which may be the employer. In many states, due to strict wage deduction laws, the employer is completely responsible for any red light or other camera tickets and cannot deduct this from the employee’s wages.
While the company must pay the fine, employers are still free to discipline employees for all traffic infractions. It is prudent that the company address this with a company policy specifically explaining what the employee is responsible for and how employees will be disciplined for infractions.