Does claiming to be “off the clock” really mean you’re “off the clock?”

July 26th, 2016 by JBWK

Submitted by Elizabeth S. Olcott – A recent ruling from the Eastern District of Virginia suggests that the answer is yes under certain circumstances. In 2012, a home care aide left a client’s home and went to the pharmacy to pick up the client’s prescription as a personal favor to the client. During this errand, the home care aide was involved in a car accident. In the resulting lawsuit, Potter v. AAIC, the Court was tasked with analyzing several issues, one of which was whether the accident occurred during the course of the home care aide’s employer’s business operations. Under the employer’s written policies, home care aides were prohibited from picking up patients’ medications. In this case, the home care aide claimed to have picked up the prescription as a “personal favor” once she was “off the clock.” Although clearly in violation of the employer’s policy, the home care aide was never disciplined for picking up the prescription and in fact was given a promotion. The Plaintiffs argued that this fact must lead to the conclusion that the home care aide was using the vehicle in the course of her employer’s business operations at the time of the accident, thus rendering the employer’s insurance policy applicable. Importantly, the Court relied on the fact that the employee stated that she acted outside the scope of her employment to determine that the vehicle was not used within the course of her employer’s business operations. Although not determinative in every case, this ruling suggests that an employee that claims to be “off the clock” when a car accident occurs could be acting outside the scope of his or her employment, even if his or her actions are related to the business operations of the employer.

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