In Florida, workers’ compensation insurance is a program designed to provide benefits such as reimbursements for lost income and medical costs of employees who are injured while at work. It has long been a cornerstone for employees in different industries, particularly those who work in risky environments. With COVID-19 shifting many jobs into work-from-home status, the question regarding workers’ compensation for telecommuters and remote workers is becoming more relevant.
A key element in workers’ compensation insurance is that it should kick in immediately after a work-related injury, regardless of who is to blame for the accident. This descriptor doesn’t bring the location factor into account. It requires that the employee was performing an activity in their line of work when he or she got injured. To this end, remote workers or telecommuters should receive workers’ compensation benefits despite not being physically in their place of employment.
Work safety and accident concerns
Telecommuting operations are not exempt from safety concerns in a business environment. In fact, experts believe that working remotely presents unique safety concerns. For example, at-home offices aren’t always ergonomically compliant, which can increase the risk of repetitive stress-related injuries over time, including carpal tunnel, neck and back pain. Without the physical boundaries of an in-office work setting (driver’s commute, designated break/lunch room, etc.), remote employees also find themselves working longer hours and with fewer breaks, leading to physical fatigue and stress, common well-known factors that contribute to workplace accidents.
Are work-related accidents at home also accidents at the workplace?
A common issue that remote employees encounter when trying to file for workers’ compensation benefits is the questionable cause of the incident that led to their injuries. Workers’ compensation coverage is a no-fault system that offers benefits to employees, even if their own mistake caused the injuries.
However, that doesn’t mean you are automatically covered in all situations. The incident that led to your injuries should have happened due to or during your work-related tasks, and this is where the discussion gets cloudy. In such situations, you need Boca Raton workers’ compensation attorneys who can fight for your rights and help ensure you obtain the amount of workers’ comp benefits you deserve.
So suppose you are working from your home office at a computer setup, where you usually do all your work. Does the workers’ compensation coverage apply only when an injury or accident happens while performing tasks on your computer? And if that’s the case, how should you prove to the insurance company that you suffered injuries while performing official duties? Given these inherent gray areas in remote work regulations, it’s in your best interests to consult with an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation cases to build a strong claim.
Record keeping can strengthen remote workers’ compensation claims
All employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment, whether the employees work-from-home or on-site. However, the most recent work-from-home guidelines published by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) date back to 2000 and state that OSHA doesn’t require employers to inspect home offices for safety because of privacy concerns.
But businesses and HR departments are still strongly encouraged to promote their own safety guidelines between employees through signed safety checklists. These checklists aim include having the remote employee ensure that all hazardous or loose items such as electrical cords and surge protectors are secured under a desk or along a baseboard.
It’s also important to mention that OSHA recordkeeping regulations still apply to employees working from home. Illnesses and injuries that occur while telecommuting can be recorded on your employer’s OSHA 300 Log. These incidents should be work-related and meet the criteria for OSHA recordable illnesses and injuries under 29 CFR Part 1904.2. With these formal tools in hand, an employee who becomes ill or is injured while performing his or her official duties in the employer’s interest, can have a much stronger case.
Injured as a remote worker? Consult a Florida worker’s comp attorney
Workers’ compensation claims involving telecommuters are complicated due to the balancing of the remote employees’ privacy rights against the employer’s responsibility to actively provide a safe work environment. The balancing act can lead to grey areas but an experienced Florida workers’ comp lawyer can shed more light on these issues, help you gather the necessary information to prove your injury as work-related, and build a strong insurance claim. If you’re a remote employee who suffered an injury during the scope of work, contact the attorneys at Sternberg / Forsythe, P.A. today for a free consultation.