Saturday, May 1, 2010

Texas Supreme Court to Hear Arguments about Commuting and the Home Office

There is one question that attorneys, juries, judges, and insurance companies have been trying to answer conclusively for the past six years -- should it be considered "commuting" to your office if your office also happens to be your home? Liana Leordeanu and her legal team argue that a commute is just that even if the final work destination also includes your kitchen and bedroom. Now, we will find out if the members of the Texas Supreme Court agree.

Leordeanu was heading home to her apartment after a long day of meeting with clients as part of her career as a traveling salesperson for a pharmaceutical company called Schering-Plough Corp. when she was in a single-car accident that left her in a coma for three months and in need of twenty-six surgeries to rebuild her face and repair her skull.

As she moved forward with her lengthy recovery, Leordeanu was surprised to learn that her insurance company, American Protection Insurance, Co., denied her claim for compensation. The company provided two reasons for their decision. First, workers' compensation usually does not cover commuters on their ride to and from work. Second, Texas offers a limited amount of workers' compensation for travels that are considered "dual-purpose" trips.

Leordeanu's attorneys are countering that traveling salespeople who are in their cars all day long for work should not be equated with regular commuters in terms of risk for accident and injury. Also, every leg of her journey that day involved a business component and she should not be punished simply because she has the flexibility of her office also being her place of residence.

A Travis County jury found in favor of Ms. Lerodeanu, but the verdict was overturned by the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The case now will be heard before the Texas Supreme Court.

What do you think about this case? If a worker is driving home at the end of a work day, and that home also houses her office, should this travel be considered for business purposes? Is Ms. Leordeanu due some compensation because she was only on the road to fulfill her professional responsibilities? Let us know your opinion!

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