On January 11, 2021, the New Jersey Senate passed Senate Bill 771 (NJ S771), proposing to amend R.S.34:15-36 by expanding workers’ compensation coverage to parking areas provided by employers and likewise expanding the definition of when employment “commences.”
Under the “premises rule,” an accident is “work-related” when it is within the scope of an employee’s employment, which begins when the employee arrives at work and ends when the employee leaves work. Generally, accidents in areas not under the control of an employer are not found to be compensable. Currently, the law finds a parking lot injury compensable if the employer owns or controls/maintains the parking lot. The current case law also finds a parking lot injury compensable if the employer designates a particular parking area to an employee to park.
To date, numerous decisions have found some accidents not compensable when they occur even after a claimant has reached a parking location. S771 proposes to expand coverage to parking lots that employers designate or offer to employees as part of the employer’s work premises. This means that employment commences when an employee arrives at the parking location and ends when an employee leaves the parking location, regardless of who owns or controls the area. This expansion of the premises rule will increase the amount of compensable work injuries.
Even more concerning: Under S771, if an employee has to travel to get from the parking location to the place of work and has an accident on the way, the accident is work-related. For example, an accident on a public street that occurs while the employee is in transit between the workplace and the designated parking area would be compensable.
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association has opposed the proposed bill as it would increase workers’ compensation claims and costs. The bill passed the Senate, but to become law it must also pass the Assembly and receive Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature. If the governor does not act within 45 days of receiving the bill, the bill becomes law. If the governor vetoes the bill, it may still become law by a two-thirds majority vote in both legislative houses.
Goldberg Segalla’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation team is closely following this bill. Our attorneys are available to answer any questions about the bill and its effect on workers’ compensation claims and the business landscape in general. For more information or immediate guidance, contact: