Remote work was already on the rise in Ohio before the pandemic. Now, many are working partially or fully from home, and while this is a win for flexibility, it also raises questions about the workers’ compensation system, especially if you’re injured during work hours. You could be left wondering, can I get workers comp if I’m a remote worker?
The short answer is yes, however, proving that you were on the job when the injury occurred can be difficult, to say the least.
Workers’ comp protects the worker, not the workplace
To simplify this, you are protected by workers’ comp whenever you’re on the job, meaning that you’re working on the clock doing job-related activities, regardless of where the location may be. This is how workers’ compensation protects traveling employees like delivery drivers.
For remote workers, your home is no different from any other location where you perform work activities. You’re still on the job, therefore any injuries sustained while on duty are still covered by workers’ comp. The problem is that the line between “on duty” and “off duty” can become blurred, so your employer, as well as the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, may have grounds to dispute whether you were “on the job” at the time the injury occurred.
“Acting in furtherance” vs. “personal comfort”
Essentially, if you’re actively doing your job or job-related tasks at the time of the injury, you’re entitled to workers’ comp. For example, let’s say you received a work-related phone call and tripped while walking to the phone, that should be a compensable injury. Or, if you received a delivery of work materials and were injured while carrying them into your home, that too should be a compensable injury. However, there are always gray areas.
“Acting in furtherance” basically refers to any work duties intended to administer to an employee’s “personal comfort”. For example, if you were injured while going to the bathroom or getting a drink during your workday, that injury should still be compensable. The law recognizes that workers are human beings with basic needs that are required for the employee to do their job effectively, thus satisfying the basic “acting in furtherance” principle.
However, the “personal comfort” doctrine only goes so far. Let’s say you were injured while performing a task that was well outside your work duties and was not considered a job-related task, your injuries may not be compensable. For example, if you were hurt while throwing in a load of laundry or getting your personal mail during your workday, that is probably not covered by workers’ comp.
Eligibility for Workers’ Comp while Working from Home
The eligibility for workers’ compensation while working from home depends on various factors. Here are the key considerations to keep in mind:
To qualify for workers’ comp, the injury or illness must be directly related to work activities. In a remote work setup, this means that the injury should occur while performing work tasks or activities within the scope of employment.
- Course and Scope of Employment:
The injury must arise in the course and scope of employment, meaning it should occur during work hours and while engaged in work-related activities. This includes tasks such as answering work emails, participating in virtual meetings, or performing assigned job duties.
- Proving the Connection:
Just like with traditional workplace injuries, establishing a clear connection between the injury or illness and work duties is crucial. Documentation, such as medical records, incident reports, and eyewitness accounts, can help substantiate the claim.
- Employer-Provided Equipment or Conditions:
In some cases, if the injury occurs due to faulty equipment provided by the employer or unsafe conditions within the home workspace that the employer should have addressed, it may strengthen the case for workers’ compensation eligibility.
- State Laws and Regulations:
Workers’ compensation laws and regulations vary by jurisdiction. It’s essential to consult the specific laws in your state or country to determine the eligibility criteria and requirements for remote workers.
What to do if you’re injured while working from home
As with any work injury, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure that you have the greatest chance of getting a workers comp claim approved. First, you need to report the injury to your supervisor as soon as possible. In a remote work situation, you will probably need to call your manager on the phone to make that initial notification, however, you should also send an email or other written communication as well, to make sure you have it in writing.
Next, seek prompt medical attention. Tell the doctor who sees you that you were hurt while working, and describe your symptoms in detail. This not only protects your health but also creates a record of your injuries which supports your claim.
Then, contact us. Getting workers’ comp for injuries sustained while working from home is an often complex process. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can advise you of your options and protect your legal rights at every stage in the process. Schedule your free consultation with Thomas Marchese today.