Workers’ Compensation Laws for Remote Employees
For a growing number of people, going to work no longer necessarily means going to an office every day. More and more companies are now allowing people to work remotely from home, either on a full-time basis or just part-time. As the number of people working remotely continues to grow, it’s raised many questions regarding laws that apply to remote workers. One of those big questions is: If a remote worker is hurt while doing their job, can they get workers’ compensation benefits?
If you’re injured while working at home, it’s very important to speak to a workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible. Every state has their own laws regarding workers’ compensation and a lawyer will be able to help you understand how the laws apply to your particular situation. And since cases involving injuries in work-at-home situations can be more complicated than injuries caused in an office setting, a lawyer will be able to understand the unique nature of your case.
When a person is injured while working in an office, the employer has a greater degree of control of the workplace environment and employers are able to closely monitor their employees. There’s also a good chance that there will be witnesses or surveillance footage to prove exactly how an accident happens. So when a person is injured while working from home, employers often try to deny responsibility or argue that you aren’t entitled to compensation because they weren’t acting in the line of your job when you were injured.
There have been cases in various states where people working from home were injured while taking a break to get something to drink; something people often do throughout the day whether they work in an office or remotely. In some of those cases, the employers tried to argue that they weren’t responsible because getting something to drink was unrelated to their job. However, courts later ruled that actions like getting a snack or a drink are covered by what’s known as a “personal comfort doctrine,” which allows people to make some brief breaks that aren’t directly job-related, but they do help an employee be more comfortable so that they can be more productive. Because of this, some employees have been allowed to be compensated for their injuries since the courts saw the work-at-home injury as being no different from a person being injured while getting coffee in a traditional office break room.
However, it’s important to note that there is a distinction between taking a few minutes to get some food or refill your coffee and taking a break to do something like put some laundry in the machine or clean up around the house. If you had taken a break to do something not covered by the personal comfort doctrine, you may be less likely to be covered by workers’ compensation.
It’s also important to note that whether or not you can collect workers’ comp benefits as a remote worker can also depend on whether you are considered an employee or an independent contractor. Independent contractors are not covered by workers’ comp, so they would not be able to collect benefits if they are injured while working from home. However, some employers cut corners and misclassify people as independent contractors as a way to save money. If you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor, a lawyer may be able to help.
At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have lawyers experienced in handling Michigan workers’ comp cases. Even if your employer seems like they are being helpful after you were injured in a workplace accident, you might not be getting all of the benefits you’re entitled to. We can work with you to make sure you receive all the compensation you need. Contact us today for help with your claim.