One of the pandemic’s most dramatic side effects is the sheer number of people who have transitioned from working in an office to working from home. Simply put, COVID-19 has changed the way that we do business.
With this shift comes a wide variety of questions about how old laws apply to the new norms. One question we often hear is whether employees can receive workers’ compensation for injuries that they’ve sustained while working from home.
Does workers’ comp cover injuries that happen while working remotely?
The short answer to this question is yes. Workers’ compensation covers work-related injuries wherever these injuries occur. This means that, under certain circumstances, remote employees can receive workers’ compensation for injuries sustained at home.
Why does this coverage extend to the employee’s home? As employers are responsible for employee safety during work, and work has moved to employees’ homes, then workers’ compensation coverage must extend to their homes too.
Further, this is not a radical expansion of the law. Workers’ compensation has always covered injuries wherever they are sustained, so long as the injuries are work-related ones.
What is a “work-related” injury?
However, none of this means that the place of injury is completely irrelevant. Location factors into the question of whether a particular injury qualifies as a “work-related” one.
To understand what qualifies as a work-related injury, let’s start with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration definitions. OSHA says that injuries are work-related if “an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to” the injury.
Further, the “work environment” is “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment. The work environment includes not only physical locations but also the equipment or materials used by the employee” during work.
Now, that’s a lot of vague legalese from OSHA, so here’s a simple example. If an in-office employee gets electrocuted while using a company printer, the resulting injury qualifies as a work-related one. However, what if the employee works from home and gets electrocuted by his or her printer?
To determine whether an injury meets OSHA’s definition of “work-related,” courts ask (1) whether the injury “arises from” the employee’s work and (2) whether it “occurs during the course of” employment. The first question is about what leads to the injury, and the second is about when the injury happens.
From there, let’s return to our example. Say the remote employee gets electrocuted while printing out a company contract to mail to a client. His injury clearly “arises from” and “occurs during the course of” his employment. That the printer is his own personal one doesn’t change the result.
However, if he’s printing out pictures for his children, then his injury does not “arise from” his employment. This means that he’s not entitled to workers’ compensation.
Injured remote workers should hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney
Clearly, there are a lot of gray areas here. What if the remote employee gets electrocuted at home, by a company printer, while printing pictures for his children? All these facts matter, and tiny details can make a huge difference.
This is why everyone needs a good attorney to handle their workers’ compensation claims. At Hunter and Everage, we have the experience to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation. Contact us today.