Workers’ Compensation for Working From Home
Workers' Compensation protections apply to all employees and does not limit benefits on location. Workers' Compensation insurance protects workers and employers from injuries sustained in the course of employment.
On March 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed the first order requiring non-essential businesses to reduce their on-site workforce by 100 percent. This order was one of many that made telecommuting the norm all over the U.S. Even the New York Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) followed this order; it closed its location and ran hearings remotely.
Workers’ Compensation Remote Employees Guide
Being home more increases the potential for accidents and illnesses. The problem with workers’ compensation is determining whether it applies to an employee’s home. Generally, injuries sustained outside the work environment are not compensable.
However, workers’ compensation protections apply to all employees and does not limit benefits on location. Workers’ compensation insurance protects workers and employers from injuries sustained in the course of employment.
That includes home offices. Successful workers’ compensation claims for remote workers are possible if:
- The employee performed work for the employer’s benefit while working from home; and
- The employee has a regular schedule and a pattern of performing remote work that their home gains status as their workplace.
If your situation matches these elements, your home effectively becomes a workspace with multiple injury scenarios. For example, you may trip and fall while walking from the computer to the refrigerator. If this occurred during work hours, your injury should be covered by workers’ comp. However, if the same trip and fall happen after you clocked out, it is unlikely that the incident is considered a work-related injury.
Also, if employers fail to help set up ergonomic work stations, telecommuters may suffer carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and other repetitive-stress injuries. Different work at home conditions makes it more difficult to ensure a safe workstation setup that reduces injuries. But if you ask for help creating a safe work environment and your employer refuses to provide that assistance, you may have a claim.
The COVID pandemic, lockdowns, and the telecommuting situations across New York turned homes into work areas. This situation adds a challenge to workers’ compensation insurance claims and adds uncertainty for claimants and business owners alike. This likely is the new normal for a long time, and the law must adapt to the new circumstances.
If you are injured while remote working, you likely have a claim under workers’ compensation laws. But you need legal representation to navigate this new ground successfully. Terry Katz & Associates understands these challenges and is ready to handle your work-at-home injury claim.
Best Practice For Employers With Employees Telecommuting in New York During COVID
If your job goes remote, it is up to your employer to help you set up your work environment. Home offices are usually spots where you may sit for a few hours to pay bills, shop, or game online. When your job duties transfer to a home office, you need an appropriate workspace for an eight-hour day.
When your work duties become remote, your employer should provide:
- A Set Schedule: A schedule defines expectations and outlines exact work hours. Remote time clock systems also establish when you are on company time. These records can prove vital in a workers’ compensation claim because they show you were acting in your scope of employment.
- Office Equipment: Most employers send their at-home employees a company laptop. This step ensures you have the right technology and access to the employer’s systems. In addition to the computer, employers should provide other needed items, like ergonomically correct keyboards, chairs, and monitor risers. As mentioned above, most informal home offices are unequipped for long workdays, and your employer may need to accommodate you.
- Written Agreements: If you work from home for your own benefit and not for your employer’s benefit or necessity to meet COVID stay-at-home laws, that agreement must be in writing. For example, if you work from home for work flexibility and child care reasons, not because of the pandemic, that is for your benefit, not the employers. But if you work at home due to pandemic requirements, have that email, memo, or other writing handy as that shows you telecommute for your employer’s benefit–mainly, their legal compliance during lockdowns.
- Contact Information: Employers must support good communication. You should know who to email or call when you need office equipment or have a question. Staying connected is one of the most difficult challenges when working remotely. Since workers’ compensation law contains notice requirements, you need to know who to email if you face a home office injury.
What if My NY Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied for My Home Office Position?
You may face a denial directly from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company or later in the adjudication process with the WCB. In the first instance, we escalate your claim to the WCB. If the WCB fails to rule in your favor, we request a review by three WCB members. From there, we can appeal adverse decisions to the New York Appellate Division.
While your attorney works on these processes, it is crucial to avoid sabotaging yourself. As you wait for a decision at any step of your claim, remember:
- Do not discuss your injury or your claim with your employer: Even if you are still working for them, any discussions regarding your injury are unhelpful. If anything, they will share your statement with their attorney or insurance company and twist your words against you.
- Don’t discuss your injury or your claim with your employer’s attorney: If you hired a workers’ compensation lawyer, your employer’s attorney should not contact you for any reason. Let your lawyer know that they tried to talk with you, and they will handle the irregularity. If you do not have an attorney, constant contact from your employer’s attorney is not good news. Call us and schedule a free consultation before you talk to any opposing parties.
- Do not discuss your workplace injury with friends or co-workers: Avoid sharing confidential details about your claim and, in fact, do not talk about it at all. Friends and coworkers are not guaranteed to stay silent, and your employer can call them to testify against you. Even if you need to vent, it is not worth the risk.
- Do not post anything on social media: In this modern period, legal claims of all types live and die by social media. The wrong post can kill your case. Posting long vents about the WCB system or your employer offers no utility for your case. Again, it is not worth the risk.
If the insurance company or WCB denies your claim, contact our law firm as soon as possible. We will review the opinions and evidence and discuss the next steps to appeal. Terry Katz & Associates helps workers with claim denials. Your employer and their insurance carrier wish to reduce their losses, which never works in your favor!
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Workers’ Comp Claim for My Work-Related Telecommuting Injury?
There are two primary deadlines with workers’ comp claims. You must notify your employer of your injury within 30 days of sustaining it. Write the notice by email and add a read receipt. Do not use text messages unless you lack other options, and never assume a telephone call or voice mail message is enough. In cases of grievous injury that involves an ambulance or wrongful death, employers may waive their claim to this notice. However, do not rely on that generosity.
Workers’ compensation claims have a statute of limitations of two years. The two years starts counting down on the date of the injury or the discovery of it. Most claims start their two years with the date of injury rule; however, if your condition is not immediately linked to your employer, then the “discovery rule” applies. That allows you to start counting down the two years from the date you linked your injury to your scope of work.
Time is of the essence with workplace injury claims, and once established, deadlines rule the claim process. The process overwhelms people trying to navigate it on their own. Rather than suffer this process and worry about filing your claim correctly, call Terry Katz & Associates and retain us to handle your workers’ compensation case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a NY Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Call 888-488-7459
Home office injury claims are tricky and fraught with details. You need an experienced law firm with a diverse clientele that has seen almost every type of workplace injury. That law firm is Terry Katz & Associates. We are ready to take on the challenges of remote work injury claims and fight for the compensation you need to move forward. Call our office today at 888-488-7459 to schedule a free consultation.