Dockless electric scooters (e-scooters), bicycles and other electrically powered micro-mobility options have become increasingly popular in major metropolitan areas within and outside the United States. E-scooter usage, in particular, has grown exponentially. Through an e-scooter company’s smartphone app, a user can locate, rent, ride around town (at up to 15 miles per hour, for now) and drop off the rented e-scooter nearly anywhere. Employers should prepare policies to take advantage of the benefits, while mitigating the potential risks, associated with employee usage of e-scooters and all forms of micro-mobility modes of transportation for work purposes. For example, employers should consider the risks of employees injuring themselves or others while operating such devices on company premises or while carrying out company-related business. Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers employee injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment. Thus, employees who are injured while operating such devices for work-related purposes are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation premiums, which are largely driven by the past cost of injuries and future chances of risk, may increase as a result.
Employers should also consider the prospect of serious injuries to employees who use rideable electric devices, whether such use is for business or pleasure. Serious injuries, or any injury for that matter, could implicate federal, state and/or local leave and disability laws. Separately, employers can be held liable for the injuries that their employees cause to others while operating a rideable electric device within the scope of employment. Employers may also find themselves responsible for paying fines incurred by employees who use a rideable electric device, and reimbursing employees for such use, especially given that regulations concerning e-scooters and other rideable electric devices vary by jurisdiction and are generally not well-known. For example, some jurisdictions ban riding e-scooters in bike lanes or in general traffic, and if an employee incurs a fine while operating an e-scooter for work-related purposes, some state and local laws may require his or her employer to cover the fine. Additionally, employers may be required to reimburse employees for the costs associated with renting a rideable electric device for work-related purposes.
Given the prevalence of such devices and the potential risks and opportunities associated with usage, employers can look to mitigate liability and promote safety by crafting new policies or revising existing policies, such as for vehicle usage and injury/illness prevention, to incorporate use restrictions and/or safety measures specific to e-scooters and other similar forms of transportation.
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