Can Employers Be Responsible for Workers’ Compensation for Remote Employees

May 27, 2021

Yes. Whether or not you can file a workers’ comp claim for an injury that happens at home depends on your job duties and whether you were injured performing those job duties.

If a delivery driver who is on the job gets hit by another driver, they can file a workers’ comp claim. They weren’t physically at their office when the accident happened, but they were injured while performing their job duties.

Essentially, workers’ comp coverage should extend to any job-related injury that occurs when:

  • Your employer is benefiting from your actions
  • You’re doing some task that’s required by your job
  • Your employer has approved you to be working remotely

If you must work at a computer all day and you suffer back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome because of your work, you might be able to file a workers’ comp claim. However, there are a few additional difficulties that can arise when people suffer injuries away from their actual places of work.

1. You need to be able to prove your injury was work related.

There are a lot of ways you can get injured at home that have nothing to do with your job. If you fall off a step ladder while changing a lightbulb, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to file a workers’ comp claim. If you get carpal tunnel from playing video games, you shouldn’t be filing a workers’ comp claim – unless your job is video game testing and that’s what you were doing when the injury occurred.

Claiming your carpal tunnel is because of your job duties when it isn’t is fraud and it is very illegal in Georgia.

Your employer may have questions about how your injury actually occurred, or they may doubt that it is actually job related. Their workers’ comp insurer may have the same doubts, or they may even be the source of those doubts. When there are disputes about how an injury occurred, injured workers often have a tougher time getting the money they need to cover their work injury expenses.

2. What is and isn’t benefiting your employer?

Determining when a remote work injury should or shouldn’t be covered by workers’ comp is likely going to get more complicated as more people begin working remotely. When employees are in an office there’s a clear delineation for when you are and aren’t covered by workers’ comp insurance.

When you walk in the office door in the morning you’re covered, since you’re there to do your job for your employer. When you get in your car and drive off the parking lot to go home, you’re no longer covered, since you’re not doing that for your employer’s benefit.

What about a remote worker who gets up from their computer to get a drink and trips on a cord, steps on one of their children’s Legos or suffer some other kind of mishap on the way to the fridge? If a slip, trip or fall happens in the office, it would very likely be covered. If it happens at home, it might not be.

If an injury is caused by factors that are entirely within the employee’s control, like the safety of the walkways in your home, your workers’ comp claim might be disputed.

3. Will your employer and their workers’ comp company trust you?

In nearly every remote worker injury claim there are no coworkers or managers to witness the injury occurring, unless you manage to injure yourself on a Zoom call. In offices, it’s much easier to prove that your injury was job related. Claims that arise from injuries at home will be treated differently in some respects because there may be little to no documentation or proof to back up an employee’s claim.

Employers Can’t Control Your Home Workspace

Employers have an incentive to keep their workplaces safe:

  • Workplace injuries hamper business productivity
  • They can cause liability problems
  • Even a small number of on-the-job injuries can result in higher workers’ comp insurance premiums

Those reasons for preventing workplace injuries don’t change when workers are remote, but employers do essentially lose their ability to mandate safe work environments if their employees are at home.

The case Verizon Pennsylvania v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Alston), 900 A.2d 440 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) revolves around a remote worker who went to get a drink upstairs during her shift. She heard her work phone ring, rushed down the stairs to get it, fell and injured her neck.

Her argument was that her injury was caused by her rush to fulfill her job duties. Verizon essentially argued that she wasn’t covered when she was upstairs getting a drink.

The appeal board ended up deciding in the employee’s favor. However, there’s no guarantee what one workers’ comp appeals board decision in Pennsylvania will be relevant to an injured worker’s situation in Atlanta.

These cases are often complicated, and many factors can potentially influence the outcome of a remote worker injury case.

Get Help With a Workers’ Comp Claim in Georgia

If you’re ever injured while performing your job duties – whether you’re in the office, driving a fleet vehicle or at home – you should technically be covered by your employer’s workers’ comp. However, just because you should be covered doesn’t mean your employer and their insurance provider will always approve your claim without any challenges.

 

The workers’ comp lawyers at the Dressie Law Firm are committed to fighting for the compensation you deserve after a workplace injuryCall us at 770-756-6333 for a free consultation.