Driving on Company Time
Sending an employee on an errand? Think again.
Sending one of your employees across town to pick up those company brochures from the print shop might not be as great an idea as you might think. If that employee is involved in an auto accident, an injured party could come after your business for compensation.
There are several potential legal hot spots that businesses can easily overlook because such concerns may seem trivial.
- Cell Phones
It is common practice for businesses to equip their employees with a company cell phone so that clients or other employees can reach them when they are away from the office. It seems to make good business sense. The employee has freedom to leave the office without fear of missed calls. And overall efficiency is increased, which is good news to any employer. But sometimes, after giving a cell phone to an employee, drive time becomes just another place of business, and now with the added distraction of the cell phone. Should an accident occur, anyone seeking compensation could have a potential case against the business. Even if an employee isn't using the phone, and even if the accidents occurs outside normal business hours, but while the phone is in their possession, the company could potentially be held liable.
Although pagers might be viewed as less distracting to the user than cell phones, they still can create legal waves for a company. By providing an employee with a beeper and requiring them to respond to pages, the employee's status could be considered "on call" and therefore "on the job," even outside of normal working hours. If an employee is on call while in transit, they could be considered acting on behalf of their employment, which could lead to company liability for any mishaps that occur during that time.
- Non-Designated Drivers
Most companies painstakingly investigate and insure their on-the-job drivers, such as delivery people and truck drivers. But they usually overlook the small errands for which they sometimes send non-insured employees, such as office workers. While such functions like sending someone out for coffee may seem trivial and the best way to get the job done, employers must consider the possible legal dangers. If a company delivery driver causes an accident, the company could be charged for damages, but the insurance company will probably cover most of it. When other employees are sent out on errands that require driving, any legal entanglements could prove messy and costly.
What can companies do to protect themselves?
Here are the following tips to help make sure businesses don't get into legal trouble when employees are sent outside the building:
Set employee policies regarding employees not using the cell phone for business while driving. Before implementing any such policies, employers should seek out legal counsel to be sure that the policies don't cross any legal employment boundaries.
Provide cellular phones and pagers only for essential personnel.
Before giving an employee an assignment that requires driving, make sure they have a valid driver's license.
Better yet, keep employees in their hired roles. If they were hired for office work, keep them there. Let the company drivers do the driving.
- Check with your insurance company to see what your company is covered for and when in situations involving the actions of your employees.
- Keep things in perspective. Are those extra moments saved more important than the risk of legal entanglements?
Employer Liability: Get Legal Advice
If one of your employee's has been involved in a car accident on company time, a good first step is to seek legal advice. An experienced business and commercial law attorney can help you understand the law and your company's liability for any accidents.