It’s important to have a means to monitor your work, even when you’re working remotely. Things such as time-tracking software, established working hours, and a dedicated work area.
With hundreds of thousands of workers forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a slew of issues are bound to surface. One of the most glaring concerns is whether remote workers are still covered by their workers’ compensation benefit. Most people understand the basic foundations of a workers’ compensation benefit to be as follows:
- The claimant must be an employee
- The injury must have occurred during the performance of duty
It’s only when these two basic conditions are met that a workers’ compensation claim can be considered. This begs the question of whether remote workers are eligible for a workers’ compensation benefit even when they are working remotely.
The short answer is that yes, even when most employees are working remotely, they are still considered to be acting in the interest of their employer, and that they are placed at home by virtue of their employment. The above mentioned conditions can be met even when an employee is performing remote work.
Laws vary between states. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, any injury sustained outside of the employer’s premises, but by an employee actually engaged in the furtherance of the affairs of the employer qualifies as a work injury, and is therefore covered. Even when an employee is working from their own office or even from their couch, as long as they are performing duties that promote the affairs of the employer, they are protected by the workers’ compensation act.
One example of this is the case of Verizon Pennsylvania v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Alston), 900 A.2s 440 (Pa. Cmmw.Ct. 2006) wherein the claimant injured their neck when they fell down a flight of stairs while talking to their supervisor on the phone.
The court ruled that even when the claimant was on a break, and even when they were not in their home office, the claimant was still performing in the course and scope of the employer’s business when the injury was sustained.
Inversely, the case of Werner v Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Greenleaf Services), 28 A.3rd 245 (Pa. Cmmw.Ct. 2011), an employee was found unresponsive in their home office. The court found that the home office was not used solely for business purposes, and therefore could not determine whether the injury occurred during the performance of duties related to employment. In this case, it was emphasized that it was the claimant’s burden to prove that the injury sustained was in fact a work-related injury.
This is not meant to deprive workers of a means to secure full and fair compensation, but rather, it is meant to also protect employers from false workers’ compensation claims, especially considering that they could cost an employer thousands of dollars.
It’s important to have a means to monitor your work, even when you’re working remotely. Things such as time-tracking software, established working hours, as well as a designated work area will help your workers compensation lawyer build your claim, especially when it’s difficult to tell how much longer we’ll have to stick to a remote work setup.