Generally the application of the coming and going rule will determine if an employer is responsible to pay benefits for their employee who is traveling to and from work. In one California case, it was decided that the family of a man who was working an extra shift and was then killed on his way home will not receive benefits from his employer.
Seth Lantz was a correctional officer who worked at Pleasant Valley State Prison and has been working his normal shift from 2 pm-10 pm when he was told he had to serve as watch from 10 pm-6 am. As the least senior officer, it was expected that he be the one to take the shift when someone called out, a duty stipulated in his contract. After working all night he headed home and was killed in an accident. The family claimed that they deserved benefits because he had worked beyond his usual shift and was not traveling at a fixed time, and his commute was too far to be local. He commuted about 85 miles to work each way. The first workers’ compensation judge agreed, but the case was appealed.
In the case of Shannon Lantz v Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, State Compensation Insurance Fund the court found that this particular case was not an exception to the rule, though many cases before it have been granted exception. This court said that his commute, though long, was still local and since he had worked these extra shifts before, so they could not say he was not traveling at a fixed time and he was not working a “special mission” as he had worked these overnight shifts before and was aware that he might have to from time to time.
The coming and going rule can be very rigid and there are rare exceptions. The court said that for a case to qualify for exception, the employer must have control over the employee’s commute in some way or gain some kind of benefit from the employee’s travel, or the travel must be outside their usual commute in a very special circumstance. In this case Mr. Lantz was not doing anything out or the ordinary that would qualify for benefits.