Workers’ Compensation for the Telecommuter

In the past, few jobs required an employee to work remotely from home. However, with the rise of the internet and other communication tools that allow employees to stay in contact with supervisors, working from home, sometimes called telecommuting, has become a way of life for millions of Americans. Five years ago, approximately four million Americans had telecommuting jobs, while 80% reported that they would prefer to work from home at least some of the time. More of the workforce may get the opportunity, because telecommuting is compatible with at least 50% of U.S. jobs.

Telecommuting has benefits for employees and employers alike. However, it can raise unexpected questions regarding workers’ compensation benefits. Though laws vary by state, a work-related injury that occurs while telecommuting is usually compensable.

Employer Control

When you work on your employer’s premises, the employer has more control over the work conditions. As a result, there may be an increased risk of injury when you work from home. Nevertheless, your employer’s responsibility to compensate you for work-related injuries remains the same regardless of your location. The courts have established that the control, or lack thereof, that an employer has over the work environment is not relevant to the compensatory determination.

Arising Out of Work

To be eligible for compensation, you must be able to demonstrate that your injury occurred when you were performing a work-related task or acting in the employer’s interest. If you had stopped work to care for a child or attend to household chores when the injury occurred, that would likely not be compensable.

However, the line can get blurry if you were taking a short break from work for coffee or a trip to the restroom. If you were working at your employer’s place of business and you were injured during a short break such as these, your injury would usually be compensable under the “personal comfort” doctrine.

Some jurisdictions have also applied the personal comfort doctrine to people working in their own home. However, for the time being, the court is likely to consider such cases on an individual basis.

The Course of Employment

As an employee, your employer usually has the authority to require you to work during certain hours, even when you work from home. The timing may be significant to your work comp claim. If the injury occurs during hours that your employer requires you to work, the injury is probably compensable.

Since telecommuting is still a relatively new concept, there is a process involved in determining how existing laws apply to it. If you are a telecommuter having difficulties with a work comp claim, a lawyer, like a workers comp lawyer in Northern New Jersey from Rispoli & Borneo, P.C., may be able to help. Contact a law office for more information.