Increasingly, people are working from home. The global pandemic has drastically changed how we do our jobs. Many workers discovered that they could perform their duties remotely, and companies adjusted accordingly. Many organizations began hiring more and more workers from outside their state, increasing their workforce and productivity while cutting the cost of office maintenance.
As with any major change, this new dynamic affects everything. There are more questions now about things like workers’ compensation, especially when an entire section of a company’s workforce uses their homes as offices.
In this article, we will explore how working from home affects workers’ compensation.
Employer Liability When You Work from Home
Which Injuries Qualify?
Employers still have a responsibility for their workers’ safety. If you were sent faulty equipment that caused you injury, you can make a valid claim for workers’ compensation. This could be a standing desk that falls and hurts you, poor wiring that shocks you, etc.
To receive worker’s comp from a home office injury, your injury must be directly related to your work. The burden of proof is on the worker. It’s up to you to demonstrate the relationship between your injury and your job. For instance, if you fell while reaching for paper from your printer, you may be entitled to workers’ comp.
Workers are also protected by something called the “doctrine of personal comfort.” When you work in an office environment, you may occasionally get up to grab a cup of coffee. If you were to slip and fall while doing so, you can still claim workers’ comp, even though you weren’t directly working at that moment. The same is true for injuries incurred from bathroom trips or even smoke breaks.
From home, you could sustain similar injuries. You may fall on the way to the bathroom or to the kitchen for a snack. In such instances, it will be up to the workers’ compensation insurer to determine if your injury was on personal time or work time. For instance, if you quickly stepped into the yard to let the dog out and somehow got injured, you may qualify. However, if you stopped working to take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, you might be denied.
Before applying for work-from-home compensation, run your application by an attorney. They can help you determine whether your injury will pass scrutiny, and they can help you phrase your request to make it more attractive to insurers.
Proving that Your Injuries Were Work-Related
Documentation is your best tool. Take pictures of the scene of your injury. Show how the conditions led to your harm. Make sure the images show that the dangers were reasonably not your fault.
If your worksite is a cluttered mess, the insurer may blame you for the conditions. However, you can prove that you didn’t have any better options. Let’s say your printer is in a dangerous, inopportune place. Your employer may be responsible because they didn’t provide you with an appropriate workspace. Maybe you have many dangling wires that pose a danger, but again, your employer didn’t give you a desk that helps you hide these hazards.
Working from home also provides unexpected dangers, just like any other work environment. Let’s say you fell and hurt yourself. Maybe one of your children misplaced a toy, or there was excess water spilled around the dog bowl. Claims like this, while valid, have a high likelihood of being denied. The insurer will claim that the errant toy or spill is not the employer’s fault. Make sure to work closely with your attorney on your application. You need a convincing, genuine argument for why you deserve workers’ comp.
Partial Work-From-Home Workers’ Compensation
Generally, employers aren’t responsible for employees traveling to and from work. This may not be the case if you partially work from home. Imagine you spend most of your day working from home, but you must occasionally go to the office for meetings or other activities. Your travel between home and the office may be considered part of your duties, and if you are hurt during this journey, you may qualify for workers’ comp.
Most Common Work-From-Home Injuries
If you are working from home, your risks are similar to those of other office workers. Make sure to keep your office environment safe to help you avoid the following injuries.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Almost every occupation involves regular, repeated motions. Warehouse workers often, bend, lift, and stretch in similar ways, taking a toll on their bodies. A repeated lack of motion can have the same effect. Office workers sit in the same positions for hours, putting strain on their backs, necks, legs, and so on.
Repetitive motion injuries affect the musculoskeletal system. A common example for office workers is carpal tunnel syndrome, often caused by typing and other forms of computer work. This condition can cause sharp pain, aching, or fatigue along the arms or fingers.
If a musculoskeletal disorder – directly derived from your work – inhibits your ability to perform your duties, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Regardless of whether you work from home, you can easily trace your injuries back to the physical demands of your job.
Slip, Trip, and Fall Injuries
This article has already made several references to these injuries, easily sustained when working from home.
When applying for workers’ comp, it’s important to know the difference between the three.
This injury specifically refers to losing your footing or balance. This could be from a foreign object, a spill, or uneven ground.
If you collide with a fixed object and fall, this is classified as tripping. You may bump into your desk, file cabinet, furniture, etc.
This is often the result of a slip or a trip, but it could be an isolated incident, too. If you lean against something that is unstable, you could fall and injure yourself. This could happen if you have faulty equipment, such as a desk that tips over.
Office environments are often full of people bustling from place to place, increasing the risk of running into an object or one another. Working from home doesn’t stop the need to move quickly. You may rush to answer an email notification. If, in your hurry, you slam into a solid object, you may be eligible for workers’ comp.
If you’ve been hurt on the job, regardless of where you work, call our office for a free consultation. We can help you apply for workers’ comp, and we are here if you are denied. Our number is (714) 909-2609. You can also contact us online.