Posted on: 7 October 2015Share
Telecommuting has become increasingly popular, with at least one study indicating that 3.2 million Americans worked as telecommuters in early 2014. If you're one of them, do you still qualify for workers' compensation benefits if you're injured while working from home? The answer may depend on a number of factors.
1.) Are you and your employer in agreement about your workplace?
One of the key questions that can determine an employer's liability for an on-the-job injury that occurred while telecommuting is whether or not you and your employer agree that your home is your workplace, even if only temporarily.
For example, if your employer instructs you to take case files and study materials home in order to prepare for a meeting and you get hurt trying to carry the load down the steps to your home office, you are very likely to win your case for workers' comp. However, if you take the materials home without telling your employer, your employer can't be expected to bear the responsibility for your unauthorized actions.
2.) Did your injury occur as part of your job duties?
If part of your job involves opening large boxes of office materials or supplies that are occasionally delivered to your home and you cut a tendon in your hand with a utility knife while opening a box, that's a work-related injury. However, if you cut your hand with a knife while making yourself a sandwich on your break, that's probably not going to be an allowable claim.
An exception can arise if your agreement with your employer is murky on the issues of breaks and lunches. If the policy isn't clear about when you are "on the clock" and when you aren't during your telecommute, your employer could be liable for nearly any injury that you receive during work time. A similar exception can arise if your contract with your employer isn't specific about what area in your home is considered the workspace.
For example, one telecommuter was awarded benefits after being assaulted by her neighbor when she was making lunch because her contract with her employer wasn't specific about what constituted her work environment.
3.) Were you injured while inside the home office?
If your contract is clear about what constitutes your work environment and limits that to your home office, you are likely only going to be covered if your injury occurred inside that space. However, within that space, almost any injury that would be covered if it happened within a corporate office qualifies for workers' compensation.
That includes such mundane things as slips and falls, back injuries, and repetitive motion injuries. Just make sure to protect your own interests by reporting your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Provide as much documentation (like timesheets that show when you were working) as you can about when and how the injury occurred and make sure that you're proactive about filing a claim.
If you're a telecommuter and you've been injured in the course of your employment, don't hesitate to contact an attorney, such as one from Crowley Ahlers & Roth Co LPA, if your workers' comp claim gets denied. Letting you work from home doesn't let your employer out of his or her obligation to provide you with benefits if you were injured on the job.