Sales Folks Are Traveling, Liability Questions Arise

Members who responded to an informal poll about getting their sales team back on the road seemed to focus on July as a potentially significant step toward normal.

“Effective June 1, we are allowing our sales group to travel via car and make overnight stays if necessary,” wrote one executive. “Effective July 1, we will allow our sales team to fly commercial to visit customers.”

That response was in mid-June, and in the era of COVID-19, two weeks can change things, which is why the Association asks members to continue to contribute to this resource.

Read members’ responses at, and send your company’s travel plans to Kristi Ruggles at Companies are not identified on the web site.

Joe Schmitt, who is a shareholder in the labor and employment group at Nilan Johnson Lewis, responded to questions from members seeking information on employer liability as it relates to a salesperson becoming infected during travel or getting quarantined.

He said if a salesperson becomes infected while traveling, the employer could potentially be liable for the employee’s infection, but the employee’s remedies would be limited. Virtually every state has clarified that COVID-19 infections arising out of the course of work are workers’ compensation claims, and an employee’s recovery is therefore limited to workers’ compensation benefits.

Employers should nevertheless be cautious. They should require employees to take precautions while traveling, including social distancing, wearing masks, monitoring their health conditions, and following other current medical advice. If an employer requires employees to take such precautions, the employer should limit its exposure to COVID-19 claims arising out of travel.

If a salesperson is quarantined during travel, that employee may be entitled to receive wages from the employer and to have his or her expenses reimbursed. Each case will depend upon the employer’s particular compensation structure and the state where the employee is quarantined, Schmitt said.

He advises employers to take precautions such as checking the status of states that their sales teams will visit and advising employees to leave states if stay-at-home orders seem imminent.

Members of the Association are entitled to up to 60 minutes of no-cost, confidential consultations with Schmitt on labor and employment questions. Call the firm at (612) 305-7500.