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February 2022: New Jersey Passes Law Expanding Parking Lot Liability for Employers

22 Feb

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Update Applicable to:
All employers who provide or designate parking areas for their employees in the state of New Jersey

What happened?
On January 10, 2022, Governor Murphy signed Bill S771 into law, amending Section 36 of the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Act and expanding workers’ compensation liability in parking lots.

What are the details?
S771 amends Section 36 of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act as follows:

”Employment shall also be deemed to commence, if an employer provides or designates a parking area for use by an employee, when an employee arrives at the parking area prior to reporting for work and shall terminate when an employee leaves the parking area at the end of a work period; provided that, if the site of the parking area is separate from the place of employment, an employee shall be deemed to be in the course of employment while the employee travels directly from the parking area to the place of employment prior to reporting for work and while the employee travels directly from the place of employment to the parking area at the end of a work period.”

Prior to this amendment, an injury was only compensable under workers’ compensation if the employer-owned or controlled the parking lot or directed the employee where to park. This amendment expands those principles in two main ways.

First, an employer will be liable if it “provides” a parking area and the injury occurs in that parking area. The term “provides” is somewhat ambiguous and will certainly lead to creative arguments from petitioner and respondent attorneys as to whether an employer provides the parking. For instance, if an employer leases an office that contains access to a parking lot, is that considered providing a parking area? In the past, the analysis would focus on whether the employer had control over that parking lot. With this amendment, petitioner attorneys will certainly argue that when an employer provides office space with a parking area, it is also providing the parking area. On the contrary, respondent attorneys will argue that an employer can only provide what it owns and/or controls and, if it does neither, it does not provide the parking area.

Second, the amendment makes clear that if an employee parks at an offsite parking area provided by the employer and is injured while traveling directly from that area to the place of employment, that injury will be compensable. A prior New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Hersch v. County of Morris, 217 N.J. 236 (2014), found that an employee injured on a public street while traveling from offsite parking provided by the employer to the worksite was not compensable. This amendment essentially overturns that decision.

This law takes effect immediately.

For more information, please see the links below:

Bill S771

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, ensure their employees’ safety in the designated parking areas, and be aware that an employee injured while traveling to and from the designated parking area and the place of employment must and will be compensated for the injury.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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