The coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the country has disrupted our lives in numerous ways. Millions of businesses have been forced to close, and many of those that are still open have moved their workers to their homes at least temporarily. But now that they’ve tested out the telecommuting process, many companies may decide to have their employees work remotely even after this is all over.
The accelerated trend toward telecommuting brings up a very important question, “is an employee eligible for workers’ compensation when they are working from home?” The short answer to this question is “yes”.
The same issues apply to employees who are telecommuting as to those who work on-site. If the company carries workers’ compensation insurance, then all employees would be covered by it, regardless of their location. Furthermore, the same criteria are used in determining whether a work-at-home employee is eligible for workers’ comp – the most important being that the injury must be “work-related”.
This is where things can get a little murky for telecommuting employees. At the job site, the employer has much greater control over the work conditions. They are responsible for implementing the proper safety standards, ergonomics, etc. When an employee is at home, however, the lines between their work and their personal life can become more blurred. Still, courts have found that an employer’s lack of control over the work environment is not a determinative factor when it comes to awarding workers’ compensation benefits.
Is it, or Is It Not a Work-Related Injury?
Employees are often confused about when an injury would be considered work-related while they are telecommuting. Here are some examples to help clear some of this up:
- Employee One works in his basement home office, but he keeps some of his files and supplies upstairs in his garage. His boss emails him with a question about one of the files. On his way back downstairs after grabbing the file, he trips and falls, injuring his head and neck. Employee One was clearly doing work for his company when he got hurt, so this injury should be considered work-related.
- Employee Two also works from her basement home office, and she keeps her treadmill across the hall from her office. After lunch, she decides to get a quick workout in before going back to work. She slips and falls while on the treadmill and injures her lower back and leg. Since Employee Two was not doing company work when she got hurt, this injury would probably not be covered by workers’ comp.
- Employee Three is making facemasks from home to be sent to other workers who are out in the public and potentially exposed to the virus. She gets a call from her supervisor, and while running to pick up the phone, she trips over her child’s toy and gets hurt. Even though a personal item – her child’s toy – played a part in the injury, this should also be considered work-related, because she was answering a call from her supervisor.
One of the major challenges for employees who are hurt while working from home is proving the injury. Unlike the workplace, there will probably be no witnesses, so additional documentation will be needed. Telecommuters who get hurt should report the injury to their employer right away, seek immediate medical attention, and take multiple photographs of the area where they got hurt and what caused it. And because these types of cases can get complicated, it would also be a good idea to retain the services of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
We are Here When you Need Us
The country is going through a very tough time right now, and many people have had their lives turned upside down. Employees who are working at home for the first time may not realize that they have the same rights to workers’ compensation benefits as those who work on-site. They do need to show that they were acting in the interest of the employer at the time the injury, however, and this is not always easy.
At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we have several decades of experience successfully representing individuals with workers’ compensation claims. And during this difficult time, we want you to know that we are still here for you. Although we are doing most of our work remotely and following all of the social distancing guidelines, we have the technology and resources to continue providing the strong personalized representation our clients have come to expect from us.
For skilled legal guidance with workers compensation and personal injury claims, message us online or call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789. We look forward to serving you!