Working from home and telework is no longer a choice but necessary for many businesses to continue their operations. But work-related injuries can still occur even if an employee is working from their couch, dining room table or newly created workspace. Remote workers may have the right to workers’ compensation for work-related injuries suffered at home.
Workplace injuries or heath conditions can also occur at home. These include the leading causes of all workplace injuries such as repetitive motion in microtasks that cause stress or strain, slips, and trips. Risks for some of these ergonomically related injuries may even increase at home because workers are not using standard office equipment and work at hastily created workspaces in their bedrooms, living room couch, or dining room or kitchen tables.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration holds employers responsible for providing a safe work environment in a traditional office and at their homes. Employers, however, have less control over work times, conditions, equipment, and procedures at distant home offices.
New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system is a no-fault insurance program that provides compensation and medical benefits to workers who suffer a job-related injury or illnesses. Workers are entitled to benefits regardless of who was at fault for their injury.
An employer’s lack of control over an employee’s home workspace is irrelevant. Remote workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation if the injury arose from their work and during the time they were working.
These claims are more complicated because they are based upon injuries occurring outside the employer’s traditional workplace and, in many cases, without witnesses. Insurance investigators will have to determine where when the accident occurred, whether it took place at home or away from home, in a chair or while driving, among other things.
At-home workers also mix work and personal tasks like, for example, leaving their computers to receive a home delivery or check on their children. This may also complicate cases.
Employers may restrict their liability and the risk of remote worker injuries by having work-from-home policies that contain their expectations for remote workers and guidelines for home offices and work areas. Employers may set fixed work hours and meal and rest periods which can help determine whether an injury arose within the course of employment. They can provide training on setting up workspaces and safety measures that center on ergonomics.
An attorney can assist injured workers file and pursue their workers’ compensation claim. Their representation may help assure that rights are not lost in this complicated process.