Many companies are allowing more employees to work from home as remote employees. Working from home can be beneficial for both the employee and the employer, but it can also bring up the question of workers’ compensation for work from home jobs. Are remote employees covered under workers’ compensation? If so, what injuries are typically covered for remote employees?
At The Law Office of William L. Phalen, we believe all of our clients who have been injured at work should be protected by workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, clients who work from home may run into difficulties in receiving workers’ comp after an injury. That’s why we have compiled this guide to help you navigate workers’ comp as a remote employee.
What Is Considered a “Remote Employee”?
What makes an employee a remote worker? A remote employee works outside of the traditional office environment. Essentially, this work doesn’t need to be performed in a specific place. Rather than commute every day to work, remote employees can work and meets expectations of their job from anywhere. Remote work is also known as working from home. Remote employees may have a home office where they work every day, though these employees may also choose to work out of a coffee shop or a library or work while traveling.
Benefits of Remote Work for Employees
One of the major benefits of remote work for employees is flexibility. As a remote employee, you may also be able to design your own schedule, working the hours you choose. This flexibility can allow you to create the perfect daily routine for you. If you want, you can do your grocery shopping in the middle of the day when there are fewer shoppers or schedule a dentist appointment in the morning and start your workday after your appointment. This convenience and flexibility are what draw a lot of employees to remote work.
Remote work can also renew an employee’s interest in their job. Employees may be more likely to appreciate an employer that allows them to work from home, and thus, perform better at their job. You may be less distracted in an environment of your choice and feel inspired by your surroundings. The ability to work from home is often viewed as a reward for excellent work, and you may feel more motivated to reach your work goals.
Working from home may also improve your mental wellness and your health. By eliminating the daily commute and working in a comfortable environment, your stress levels can decrease. Remote work can lead to healthier, happier employees.
Benefits of Remote Work for Employers
One of the benefits employers can enjoy from remote work is increased productivity. Because remote employees can enjoy more flexibility, employers can also expect greater productivity from their employees. Remote workers are more likely to be motivated to perform well at their jobs.
By offering remote work, employers are also more likely to retain employees. Many employees work quit their current office job for a remote position, and with the increase in remote work across the country, employers that don’t offer remote work run the risk of losing good employees to their competitors.
Remote work can also save companies money. When employees work from home, this can decrease a company’s overhead, such as costs for office furniture and rent.
How Employers Can Limit Liability for Home-Based Employees
Employers often use some guidelines and standards of operation that limit liability for remote workers. Employers may implement the following practices to limit workers’ compensation liability for remote employees:
- Establishing guidelines for remote work: One way that your employer may limit liability for remote employees is by establishing guidelines for employees’ home offices. These guidelines may relate to designated work areas, training for proper workstation setup and training related to safety measures, such as ergonomics. An employer may use these guidelines to avoid liability in case you neglect the established safety measures, for example, so review the guidelines and ensure that you follow them.
- Setting fixed work hours: Your employer may also limit liability for home-based employees by setting fixed work hours, meal times and rest periods. Rather than being able to create your own schedule, you will have to work during the hours set by your employer. This allows your employer to determine whether your injury occurred during or outside of work hours.
- Implementing a work from home policy: An employer may implement a work from home policy that outlines the company’s expectations for remote employees. An employer may use this work from home policy to deny liability if you fail to meet the expectations set by the policy. If your employer has created a work from home policy, carefully review your company’s expectations for your remote work.
- Inspecting employees’ remote offices: Another way your employer may limit liability for you as a home-based employee is by inspecting remote offices. When possible and appropriate, your employer may periodically check on your home office to identify and eliminate safety hazards from your work area. This can allow an employer to limit liability by removing workplace safety hazards that could result in an injury.
Being aware of how your employer may try to limit liability for home-based employees can help you navigate remote work and understand your rights when it comes to collecting workers’ compensation after an injury. Workers’ compensation and work from home laws vary by state, which is why remote workers may choose to seek counsel from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for help with a workers’ compensation case.
Are Remote Employees Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?
Yes, generally remote employees are covered under workers’ comp after an injury or illness that arises from employment. Even traditional office employees are typically covered under workers’ compensation for an injury that occurs during work hours, regardless of the location where the injury occurred.
How Does Location Affect Workers’ Comp?
Courts have established that the lack of control an employer has over the conditions of a remote employee’s home-based work is irrelevant in a workers’ compensation case. This is because a remote employee’s home is also their work premises, so hazards an employee faces in their home are also employment hazards. Just as an employer is responsible for creating a safe work environment for employees who work on the company’s property, the employer is also responsible for creating a safe work environment for remote employees.
Who Has the Burden of Proof for Work-Related Injuries?
Even though your employer will likely be responsible for your injury as a remote employee, the burden of proving the injury happened on the job usually falls on the employee. To file a workers’ comp claim successfully, you may have to show that you were acting in the interest of your employer at the time that you sustained your injury. If your employer has fixed work hours for home-based employees, for example, you would need to prove that the injury occurred during those set work hours.
What Injuries Are Covered for Remote Workers?
Workers’ compensation requires employers to provide injured employees with benefits if their injury or illness is work-related. Though the injuries don’t necessarily need to happen at the physical workplace, they must be related to the employee’s job or work responsibilities.
An employee may be injured while attending a business function or traveling for work. Just like injuries that occur within the office or workplace, these injuries are covered by workers’ compensation.
Many work-related injuries may be covered under workers’ compensation, such as:
- Lung disease
- Heart issues
- Muscle injuries
- Stress-related digestive problems
Injuries don’t have to appear suddenly. In fact, many injuries develop gradually due to repetitive movements or working conditions. Repetitive stress injuries caused by computer use, for example, are becoming more common.
What Doesn’t Workers’ Comp Typically Cover for Remote Employees?
Though many work-related injuries may be covered under workers’ compensation, not all of the injuries that happen in the workplace or on the job will be covered by workers’ compensation. If an injury was caused by the actions of the employee rather than because of the working conditions, then this injury may not be compensable under workers’ comp. Examples of these injuries include:
- Injuries that happen off-the-clock: If you are off-the-clock during the time of your injury, you may not be able to receive workers’ comp benefits. For example, if you are on your lunch break at the time of your injury or you are injured while heading to a personal appointment, you may not eligible for these benefits. If your employer has fixed work hours for remote employees, you may need to prove that your injury was sustained during these set work hours.
- Injuries sustained while commuting to or from work: For employees who commute to and from work, injuries sustained during this commute may not be covered under workers’ compensation. If you work entirely from home, you may not have to worry about commuting. However, if you do have to work some days or hours in the office, you may want to keep this exception of workers’ compensation in mind.
- Injuries sustained from non-work activities: You may also not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you are engaging in horseplay at work. For example, an employee who works in the office and is injured while playing a prank on another employee may not qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
- Injuries that occur during non-mandatory social events: If you are injured while attending a social event with your coworkers that is not mandatory and occurs outside of business hours, then you may not be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits.
- Injuries from an initiated physical altercation: If you initiate a physical altercation and receive injuries from the altercation, then you may not be able to claim workers’ comp benefits.
- Injuries resulting from illegal activities: If you are under the influence of substances or intoxicated at the time of your injury, then you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Injuries caused by a violation of a company’s policy: You may not be eligible for workers’ comp benefits If you violate your company’s policy and sustain an injury as a result of the policy violation.
- Self-inflicted injuries: If your employer finds that your injury was intentional, you may also not be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- Extremely minor injuries: You may also not be eligible for workers’ compensation if your injury is extremely minor, such as a paper cut.
Fortunately, workers’ compensation exists to protect both employees and employers. Since injured employees are protected under workers’ compensation, the trade-off is that an injured employee cannot sue their employer for the injury.
As a remote employee, you may be at an advantage in that you are likely working alone in your home office. As such, you may not be at risk of sustaining an injury as a result of an interaction with a fellow employee or sustaining an injury while commuting.
What to Do If You Get Injured as a Remote Employee
If you are an injured remote worker, what should you do to receive workers’ comp? If you sustain an injury as a remote employee, follow these steps:
1. Inform Your Employer About Your Symptoms
As soon as you begin to notice symptoms of an injury, inform your employer about your symptoms. Many states have implemented a statute of limitations on the amount of time in which an employee must let their employer know about their injury.
2. Seek Medical Attention
After letting your employer know about your symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you delay your visit to the doctor, your employer may argue that your injury isn’t as serious or severe as you claim.
3. File Your Claim
After your doctor’s visit, you should file your workers’ compensation claim. Similarly to informing your employer about your symptoms, your state may have implemented a statute of limitations on the timeframe in which you can file a claim for workers’ compensation.
4. Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you are concerned or have questions about the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may want to reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney. By working with an experienced attorney, you can review your options and develop your case.
Generally speaking, when a remote employee files a workers’ comp claim, the focus is placed on whether the injury occurred as a result of the employment.
Consult a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at Phalen Law Firm
At Phalen Law Firm, we have been helping our clients with workers’ compensation cases for decades. Our goal is to improve the lives of injured workers in Kansas and Missouri. We strive to understand your individual needs and fight for you and your rights following a work-related injury. When you work with us at Phalen Law Firm, you’ll speak with a knowledgeable person every time you call.
If you are looking for a workers’ comp lawyer in Kansas or Missouri to help you with your case, contact us for a free consultation at Phalen Law Firm today.