Can I Get Workers’ Compensation If I Work From Home?
Pennsylvania law requires all companies to cover employees under workers’ compensation. This applies to workers in almost all industries. This means that those injured during the course of their employment can file a claim for benefits. These benefits can pay for medical expenses and lost wages.
There are very few exceptions to the workers’ compensation law. So, does workers’ compensation apply to telecommuters?
Telecommuting, also known as remote work or working from home, has exploded in recent years. Many large companies are now allowing employees to telecommute either on a part-time or full-time basis. Employees who work in the office are covered by Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws, so what about telecommuters? What happens if they are hurt at home while on the clock?
What the Law Says
Workers’ compensation benefits are provided to workers who are injured during the course of employment. This is true regardless of location, so you do not necessarily have to work in an office, store, or factory for you to be considered injured while on the job. You may have the right to receive benefits if you were injured while working from home and if the injury arose out of your duties.
This means that you could claim benefits if you went to answer a work-related call and tripped over your dog on the way to the phone. However, if you were on the clock but decided to take a quick shower before a meeting and slipped and fell in the shower, that would not be considered a work-related accident. That is because you were not performing a work duty when the accident occurred. The same type of accident would not have happened in a traditional work environment.
In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, the employee has the burden of proving that he or she was performing tasks for the employer at the time of the injury. It is often believed that when an employee’s home and work environment are both the same, the hazards an employee faces by performing work at home are also employment hazards. By law, employers are obligated to provide a safe work environment for all workers, even telecommuters who do not work on company property.
Even though employers cannot control what happens in an employee’s work environment, workers’ compensation benefits are still available in the event of an accident. An employer’s lack of control over an employee’s home-based office is irrelevant.
It must be made known, however, that workers’ compensation laws apply to employees only. Not everyone who works for a company is considered an employee of that company. For example, many companies hire freelancers or independent contractors to perform work.
There is often confusion about who is considered an employee and who is considered an independent contractor. Typically, independent contractors use their own equipment and perform work on their own time. They also tend to perform single jobs (such as writing blogs, for instance) and are not under control by the company.
Independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. However, if the event that the person suffers an injury while working from home, they can claim that they were treated as an employee, regardless of the employee’s classification. Contracts stating that a person is an independent contractor are not sufficient. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Board will investigate the claim and make a determination as to whether or not the person should be considered an employee.
Why Specifics Make a Difference
Each situation must be treated on a case-by-case basis. That is because when completing your workers’ compensation claim, you must be able to prove that you were injured while working for your employer. Because of this, the specifics of your claim will be very important.
Incidents that occur at home need to be more detailed since you usually have no witnesses. It is your word against everyone else’s. In one case, a woman was injured after tripping over her dog as she walked to her garage, where materials relating to her employment were kept. At first, her claim was denied. However, once she appealed and explained that as a designer, she worked at the employer’s office only once a week and spent the rest of the time at home or on the road. As a result, she was required to keep materials in her garage. This means that she was acting in the course of employment—walking to the garage to retrieve work materials— when she tripped over the dog and was injured.
As you can see, the details are very important. The specifics will vary from each case. It is a good idea to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to help you with your case. Even if you have been denied before, a good attorney can assess your case and pull out all the relevant information that will help build your claim and get you an approval.
What Employers Can Do to Reduce the Risk of Injuries
If you are injured while working from home, do not be surprised if your manager tries to deny your claim. Some employers will unreasonably deny employees’ claims, saying that they are bad employees or that they were not really working because they were at home when the incident occurred.
Since employers do not want to have to deal with workers’ compensation claims, there are things they can do to prevent them from occurring, especially when the employee is working from home.
- Create a Policy – A telecommuting policy outlines the obligations of both parties and lets each knows what is required and what to expect.
- Allow Telecommuting Only for Select Individuals – Not every employee should be allowed to work from home, especially the ones who tend to slack off or cannot be trusted. Only responsible workers who require no supervision can work well from home.
- Set a Fixed Schedule – If your employee works the same schedule every day and goes to lunch at the same time, you can get a good idea of whether or not an injury occurred during working hours.
- Establish Home Office Guidelines – Ideally, the employee should have a desk set up with a computer and printer. The setup should be ergonomically correct to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries. Have the employee agree to these guidelines before allowing telecommuting.
- Check Home Offices Regularly – If you are allowed to by law, consider checking each telecommuters home office on a regular basis to identify hazards and other issues. Removing any hazards can prevent accidents from occurring.
Get Help from a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
While you can file a workers’ compensation claim for an at-home accident, getting approved for benefits can be quite the challenge. Since you are not in an office environment with supervision, your employer cannot be sure that you were on the clock when the accident occurred.
The team of Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo can help you with your injury claims if you were working at home when the accident occurred. If your claim has been denied, let us fight it. We have been serving Philadelphia since 1936. Contact us today at (800) 952-9640 for a free consultation or if you have questions regarding a case.
Disclaimer: This content is considered advertising and does not constitute any client-attorney privilege and does not offer any advice or opinion on any legal matter. This release was drafted by Results Driven Marketing, LLC a digital marketing, Public Relations, Advertising and content marketing firm located in Philadelphia, PA.