Work-at-Home Injuries: Who Pays the Bills?
In a modern, technology-driven world, “workplace” doesn’t necessarily mean what it once did. An increasing number of workers operate from somewhere other than a desk or workstation on the employer’s premises. That new flexibility can benefit both workers and employers in many ways: employers may have a larger talent pool to choose from, companies may save money because they need less space and equipment, and workers can cut out the commute and often create better work-life balance. But, the shifting boundaries also bring complications and uncertainty.
So, when a remote worker suffers a work-at-home injury or an injury on another remote work site, it may not be immediately clear who is responsible for medical expenses and other losses.
Workers Compensation and Remote Workers
Employees v. Independent Contractors
Employees who work from home or at another remote location are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage, just as they would be if they worked in the employer’s factory, warehouse, or office. However, independent contractors are not. So, the first question to answer in determining whether a work-at-home injury is covered by workers’ compensation is whether the worker is an employee or a contractor.
The legal answer to that question may not be what you expect, so if your employer classifies you as an independent contractor and you’ve suffered a work injury, you’ll want to investigate whether you may be misclassified.
Injuries in the Course of Employment
Ohio workers’ compensation benefits are available only to those who are injured in the course of or arising out of employment. This determination is often much more difficult in a work-at-home setting, for a few reasons. First, when an injury occurs on the employer’s premises, there are often witnesses to the incident. However, a work-at-home injury typically takes place in isolation. If there are any witnesses, they are likely family members of the injured worker, not co-workers or supervisors. Thus, it may be re difficult to conclusively determine exactly what happened. Even if the injury was clearly work-related, it may be challenging for the employee to prove that.
If you’ve suffered a work-at-home injury, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can provide valuable information about the type of evidence necessary to establish your claim.
Traveling to the Employer’s Place of Business
The general rule in workers’ compensation cases is that injuries occurring while the employee is traveling to or from work are not covered. Typically, the workday doesn’t begin until the employee is on the employer’s premises. However, employees traveling to meetings offsite, to visit clients, or otherwise traveling from one location to another in the course of business are generally covered.
Under some circumstances, a work-at-home employee traveling to the employer’s offices for a meeting, training, or other work-related purposes will fall into the second category and be eligible for benefits if he or she is injured in transit.
Work-at-Home Injuries Present Special Challenges
Work-at-home injuries often fall into an apparent gray area, and employers hoping to avoid a workers’ compensation claim may use that lack of clarity to their advantage or may mislead injured workers about their rights.
If you’ve suffered a work-at-home injury and believe you should be entitled to workers’ compensation coverage or are unsure about your eligibility, speak to a local Cleveland workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation