The Internet has resulted in widespread changes in workers’ compensation including what defines a contract of employment. In determining the applicable law governing a claim, the NJ Appellate Division, in a unanimous reported decision, went back to basics in reaching the conclusion that NJ had jurisdiction.
The Court held that the NJ State Workers’ Compensation Act confers jurisdiction over the claim of a NJ resident who applied for a position with a NY state employer on the Internet, and suffered a traumatic the accident in NY.
The precedent is well established that NJ jurisdiction could be conferred if the contract of employment was made in NJ. Gotkin v. Weinberg, 2 N.J. 305 (1949), Rivera v. Green Giant Co., 93 N.J. Super 6 (App. Div. 1966) and bolstered by the fact that injured worker was a resident of the state of NJ. Bunk v. Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J. (1996).
The important factors in the claim were that the NJ resident applied over the Internet for employment, and finalized the offer through an acceptance on the telephone with a NY employer. The place of the contract was considered the crucial trigger that conferred jurisdiction, supported by the State of the employee’s residence. Acceptance by the NJ resident, while in NJ, was deemed critical to the determination.
From a public policy standpoint the rationale is logical because of the strong interest NJ has in the health and welfare of its citizens and the fact that the NY employer was doing business in NJ via the use of the Internet to solicit employees. The may have far reaching consequences as the Gig Economy expands and "on demand" and "part-time employment" becomes more popular. See also, "Conflict of Laws--Choice of Law," Gelman, Jon L., 38 N.J.Prac., Workers' Compensation Law §2.11 (3d ed.) Thomson Reuters.
Williams v Raymours Furniture Co,, Inc., 2017 WL 1399994 (NJ App Div 2017) Decided April 19, 2017