QUESTION: I DID NOT PUNCH IN FOR WORK. DOES THIS MEAN I AM NOT COVERED IF I HAVE AN ACCIDENT?
ANSWER: IF YOU ARE AT WORK AND YOU DON’T PUNCH IN, YOU ARE STILL COVERED. PUNCHING IN DOES NOT START COVERAGE FOR A WORKER.
Joe was running late. A custodian at The City College, a CUNY school, the minute he got onto the campus, his radio crackled with news of a boiler freaking out in old Sheppard Hall. Rather than punch in, he ran straight to the boiler to take care of business. Running down the hall to the boiler room, he passed a bunch of students hanging out on the floor as young people are want to do. And before you could say Workers’ Comp, Joe went flying through the air. The boiler wasn’t the only thing that broke that morning. So did Joe’s right ankle.
After the ER and the X-rays, and the cast and the crutches and the really great painkillers, Joe called his supervisor to put in a claim. Imagine Joe’s surprise when his supervisor told him that because he hadn’t punched in before heading to the broken boiler, he was not covered. Joe panicked. That ER visit was going to cost a bundle, and it was a bundle he didn’t have. What should he do?
FILE, JOE! FILE!
A lot of workers are under the assumption that they are only covered under the Workers’ Compensation Law during their exact hours of work. Not so! Punching a timecard is not essential for an employee to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Under the Workers’ Compensation Law, an employee is entitled to a safe entrance and exit from his or her place of employment. Therefore, because Joe was on the employer’s property and engaged in his official duties, he was covered. The same would hold true if Joe had punched out and had tripped over those students and broken his ankle.
Now, if Joe was outside of the premise of employment and walking away from or walking towards the school he might not be covered. Those situations would need to be reviewed case by case. What’s most important here is to know is that if a claimant is on the premise of his or her employer, he or she does not have to be punched in to trigger coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Law.
There is also a belief that there exists a 30 minute rule that covers employees 30 minutes before or after the workday. This is not true at all. The law looks at how close an employee is to the worksite when considering coverage under the Workers Compensation Law. This coverage extends to employee parking lots or the time frame when an employee is walking from an employee parking lot to work.
Because Joe was on the premises, engaged in his official duties, regardless of whether or not he had punched in, he was covered. He filed his claim, received his coverage, got his treatment and saved himself a bundle. The boiler, however, was not covered by Workers’ Comp and CUNY had to pay out of pocket.
Matthew Funk, a partner at Brecher Fishman Pasternack Walsh Tilker & Ziegler, has been practicing Workers’ Compensation Law for over a decade. He is a member of the Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, Injured Workers’ Bar Association and the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). He has written for the New York State Trial Lawyers’ Workers’ Compensation Decisions program and has lectured on numerous occasions focusing on Workers’ Compensation Law.
John Merlino, a partner with Brecher Fishman Pasternack Walsh Tilker & Ziegler, has extensive experience in Surrogate’s Court handling Wills, Trusts, and Estates. His current area of practice is in Commercial and Workers’ Compensation. He is politically active assisting politicians in both City and Statewide Community affairs and has participated and assisted in organizing numerous Union Rallys against NON-UNION Contractors and Builders. He also teaches various unions’ Shopstewards and Apprentices on work safety, workers’ compensation and current events.