When an employee’s home is regarded as a worksite, it raises questions about remote work injuries and workers’ compensation. Generally, if a person is injured while teleworking, those injuries qualify for workers’ compensation. But like other types of work injuries, several factors are used to make this determination. Because work from home injuries are more of a gray area, employers could be more likely to contest these claims.
If your at-home work injury is disputed or denied, the workers’ compensation lawyers at Graham & Graham are available to review your case, free of charge.
Working From Home On The Rise
The coronavirus pandemic may have permanently changed the way some Americans work. Many jobs transitioned to a remote, work-from-home arrangement, facilitated by technologies that allowed employees to stay connected with co-workers via virtual meetings and more. This change to “telework” during the pandemic, however, may become at least partially permanent for many, even as pandemic fears ease. In fact, some employers expect remote work to continue for multiple days a week moving forward.
Graham & Graham recommends promptly notifying your employer of a remote work injury. If they dispute or deny your claim, we also recommend speaking to a workers’ compensation attorney about your options.
Even before the pandemic, there was strong employee demand to work from home at least part of the time. Managers that were hesitant to let employees work remotely were forced to do so at the onset of the pandemic. This experiment let the remote work genie out of the bottle, and it is now unlikely to go back in.
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that, by the end of 2021, 25% – 30% of the workforce will be telecommuting multiple days per week. They also predict that the longer people work at home, the more remote work will remain permanent. The experience raised the bar for worker happiness and job satisfaction. A significant number of workers say they would change jobs or take a pay cut to keep remote work an option.
Does Ohio Workers’ Compensation Cover Remote Work Injuries?
Remote work has benefits for employers as well as employees, including savings from the lower cost of office space, increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and less turnover. However, remote work injuries and workers’ compensation is a potential employer issue.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), employees injured while working at home are, in general, “likely going to be awarded workers’ compensation claims.” The biggest issue, says the OSBA, is whether an injury occurs “in the course of, and arising out of, employment.”
This issue is not unique to remote work injury claims. But the nature of a work-from-home injury—which may occur with nobody else present or without security footage to corroborate an accident—can make it more difficult to prove what happened.
Some Courts Have Sided With Injured At-Home Workers
The standard of an injury occurring “in the course of, and arising out of, employment” tends to be interpreted in a way that favors injured workers. A workers’ compensation expert told Insurance Business Magazine that, “it’s not unusual for the courts to rule in favor of an employee in a workers’ compensation claim due to an at-home injury while working remotely.”
For example, in one case, a woman was awarded compensation for an injury suffered when she tripped over her dog while working from home. In another case, a remote employee won a benefits claim after she fell down the stairs and injured her neck while walking from a basement office to an upstairs kitchen. In both cases, the claimants were initially denied compensation. They had to go through the courts to obtain benefits.
State statutes, employer policies, and prior court decisions must be considered in each instance. Factors that could affect a work-from-home compensation claim in Ohio include:
- The quantity and regularity of at-home work
- The presence of work equipment or a home office
- Whether the employer agreed to the employee’s regular use of the home as a workplace (or reasonably should have known the employee was working from home)
Common Work From Home Injuries
Work-from-home injuries might bring to mind accidents such as tripping over a computer cord, slipping on a child’s toy, or falling down the stairs. As the examples above show, these injuries can—and do—occur at home. Not to be overlooked, though, are ergonomic or repetitive use injuries.
The blurred lines between home life and work life is leading to some remote workers putting in more hours than they would at the office. And that can cause an increase in soft tissue injuries, especially for workers who use poorly designed workspaces.
Wall Street Journal and New York Times articles note a higher prevalence of work-from-home soft tissue injuries related to bad posture and poor positioning, such as working on the floor, in bed, or on the couch. Over time, these habits can lead to injuries associated with:
- Neck, back, and shoulder pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Poor circulation
- Muscle imbalances
Repetitive use injuries from at-home work should be covered by workers’ compensation. At the same time, they can be harder to prove, and even in a traditional work setting, employers often dispute the notion than an ergonomic injury is work-related. In a work-from-home context, ergonomic injuries only get trickier.
Ohio Workers’ Comp Lawyers for Remote Employees
No matter where you work or the type of work you perform, you have the right to receive Ohio workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury. Although working at home is no exception, employers might take exception to a workers’ compensation claim that arises from remote employment.
Graham & Graham recommends promptly notifying your employer of a work injury that occurs at home. If they dispute or deny your claim, we also recommend speaking to a workers’ compensation attorney about your options. Graham & Graham is here to provide assistance, from filing an initial claim with the BWC, to attending hearings, to appealing a wrongly denied claim all the way to the state court level.
To get the help you need, call 1-800-621-8585 or email David Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.