Though telework had been growing in popularity for years, the global pandemic has truly accelerated the number of people working from home. This lifestyle shift has pushed new questions to the forefront, such as: Are telework employees eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
The general answer is yes, as long as the injury or illness arises out of, and happens in the course of, their employment. The burden of proof rests with the employee, who must declare what they were doing at the time of the injury (the “arising out of” portion) and when the injury occurred (the “in the course of” portion).
In order to claim Workers’ Compensation benefits, the employee must prove that he or she was acting in the best interest of their company when the injury took place. Though some companies have tried to cite their lack of control over remote work environments to avoid paying, the Courts find that argument to be irrelevant. When an employee’s home is also their workplace, then the hazards that can occur at home are the exact same hazards that may happen in the workplace. If employers are responsible for the safety of their employees on company property, and the company property has been shifted to a home environment, employers are still responsible.
To keep employees safer, companies should set a list of best practices. This can include:
- Training for workplace set-up
- Best practices for ergonomics (to help avoid carpal tunnel, back issues, etc.)
- Encouraging a designated work area with fewer distractions
- Conducting periodic checks via video to help eliminate work area hazards
COVID-19 may have served as a catalyst in seeing more Americans working from home, but studies have shown that this trend isn’t new at all. Long-term changes are taking place within the nature of the workplace. Even before COVID-19 swept the globe, businesses had been promoting telework for well over a decade. Companies enjoy paying less overhead for vast properties, and can dramatically reduce their footprint with remote set ups. Working from home also helps the environment by reducing emissions. Questions about Workers’ Compensation while teleworking will be increasingly relevant as this trend continues.
Workers’ Compensation laws vary by state, and the Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Commission website can be a great source of information. If you have been injured while working remotely for your company, you may be eligible for compensation. Call Allen & Allen today for a free consultation regarding your unique situation, at 866-388-1307.