DISCLAIMER: Every state’s workers’ comp laws are different. Some states may provide coverage for certain injuries that others do not.
In 2015, 24% of employed people worked remotely from home at least some of the time. As of September of 2019, 4.7 million people in the U.S. were working remotely full-time. Now in 2020, telecommuting numbers have sky-rocketed since the coronavirus pandemic began. With the increase of telecommuters, you may be wondering—do you have workers’ comp rights when working remotely? The short answer is yes; employee injury or illness is compensable under workers’ comp if it arises out of and in the course of employment. However, your employer may have telecommuting policies that limit their liability for home-based employees’ workers’ comp.
According to OSHA, injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is working at home, including work in a home office, will be considered a work-related injury if it occurs while the employee is performing work for pay or compensation in the home and the injury or illness is directly related to the performance of work rather than to the environment or setting. For example, if an employee drops a box of work documents and injures his or her foot, the injury would be considered a work-related injury. If an employee’s fingernail is punctured by a needle from a sewing machine used to perform garment work at home, became infected, and required medical treatment, the injury would be considered a work-related injury. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if an employee is injured because he or she trips on the family dog while rushing to answer a work phone call, the injury would not be considered a work-related injury. Another example is if an employee working at home is electrocuted because of faulty home wiring, the injury would not be considered a work-related injury.
A real example of a successful telecommuters’ workers’ comp claim is Sandberg v. JC Penney Co., Inc. The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board initially denied the benefits; however, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the denial and ruled that Ms. Sandberg “was where she was, doing what she was, because of the requirements of her employment.”
It’s important to know what constitutes a work-related injury when telecommuting or working from home. Telecommuters can certainly file a workers’ comp claim and as long as the injury is work-related due to location, equipment, and purpose, it can be considered a work-related injury.
Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic and increase of telecommuting, workers’ comp can be a “gray area”. Workers’ comp laws vary by state, so it is best to consult your attorney about it. For the most part, workers’ comp does not apply to easily contracted illnesses such as the cold or flu. However, COVID-19 does not fall under the “disease of life” category. COVID-19 can be considered an occupational disease, therefore workers’ comp laws in Missouri indicate that coronavirus is covered under workers’ comp laws.
If you are telecommuting or working from home during this pandemic, it is likely you will not be considered for workers’ comp if you contract the coronavirus and COVID-19. However, if you are an essential employee who still works in their regular workspace, you may have a claim for workers’ comp, especially if your field poses high-risk coronavirus exposure.
Whether you’re telecommuting or in the office, The S.E. Law Firm can help you with your workers’ comp claim. If you’ve been hurt on the job and experienced a work-related injury, contact us for a free consultation. You can call us at 314-252-9937, our toll-free number 866-955-5297, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.