Covering your employees’ travel expenses is just the cost of doing business. One of the most costly, but avoidable liabilities an employer faces is the cost of an injury sustained while an employee is on the job, but out of the state or the country.
Each year, millions of American workers travel on business as more companies begin to spend on business travel again. Until recently, Florida employers had to be concerned with work-related injuries outside the employer’s state, which would make the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under either state’s system.
In June 2011, the Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that limited Florida workers compensation insurance benefits to be paid only in Florida, not other states. This move was prompted by pressure from Florida’s professional sports teams, whose players would file for benefits in California for more favorable settlements after injury.
The bill covers employees who are working temporarily in another state (less than 10 consecutive days or 25 in a year) that has adopted a similar restriction on pursuing claims. About a dozen states, including California, Ohio, Maryland and Washington D.C. have such restrictions.
With the ruling, Florida remains one of the most employer-beneficial states in the country for workers comp laws. Now, employers will not have to worry about paying out-of-state lawyer’s fees and can avoid paying another state’s compensation benefits, which are typically higher than Florida’s.
However, even though you will probably only be liable for paying Florida compensation benefits, it is important to know what you are responsible for covering.
As a general rule of thumb, employees are eligible to receive coverage for any injury sustained on a business trip, just as if they were working in the office, even if they are on foreign travel.
If an employee is required to travel for a trip, he or she will be covered for the duration of the trip. Under Florida law, he or she will not be covered if the employee departs the business trip to attend to a personal matter. Leisure activities, like hotel swimming pool use or travel to a dinner, will typically be covered since the employee is only in that location because of their business travel.
For example, if you send an employee to Washington, D.C. on business and they slip in their hotel, they will be eligible for compensation. However, if they slip down the steps at the Lincoln Memorial, they’ll be responsible for the bill.
Florida’s “coming and going” rule can be interpreted a number of ways in business travel situations, so it is best that both you and your employee contact a workers’ comp consultant or talk to your workers compensation insurance company to know exactly what you are responsible to cover.