COVID-19 has caused many changes in the workplace. One of the biggest impacts is how a workplace is defined. Many jobs routinely done at an office have relocated to workers’ homes. While most employers have reopened their offices, many have become more flexible about where an employee can work. As a result, many are still working remotely. What about those injured at home? Can an injured worker get workers’ compensation when working from home?
Workers’ compensation is provided by statutes – laws passed by the legislature. The statutes have been around for a while and are rarely amended. Unfortunately, there is no provision dealing directly with working remotely nor have the appellate courts addressed the issue. But, as with many laws, there are some general provisions that have been further defined and interpreted by case law which applies analogously.
Without question, workers’ compensation coverage is not limited to offices or facilities owned by the employer.
Many employees routinely perform work on sites and locations away from the employer’s office or plant. Workers’ compensation covers workers injured while performing their job duties. It compensates workers injured in accidents arising out of and in the course of employment. There are limitations to the injuries that are covered. Simply because the injury occurs during an employee’s work hours or while the employee is supposed to be working does not mean it will be covered. For example, if the worker is engaging in an activity unrelated to work (not in furtherance of normal job duties) when the injuries occur, this may not be covered by workers’ compensation.
Injuries occurring at home will be closely scrutinized by a workers’ compensation insurer. As with any on-the-job injury, prompt notice to the employer of the injury is critical.
If you aren’t sure whether the injury will be serious or covered, give notice of the occurrence of the accident anyway. No notice could make any potential coverage less likely. While you may not believe that your injuries are serious, they may not fully manifest immediately. If you wait until they do, it may be too late. Some routine and regular accounting of when and how job duties are performed remotely, even if not required by the employer, will also help establish that an injury is work-related.