The general rule in workers’ compensation cases is that a claimant needs to be an employee, and he or she needs to have suffered a workplace accident in order to claim benefits due to an injury. During the COVID-19 crisis, as much work as possible is being done remotely. For example, physicians are now expanding their telehealth practices, and many companies have turned to video consultations rather than in-person meetings.
In today’s current climate, the workspace may be a person’s own kitchen table or living room. So what do you do if you get hurt at work, when “at work” also means “at home”?
A workplace accident does not mean the worker must be at the office site. Many workers such as salespeople are entitled to claim work injury benefits even though they rarely set foot in the in company office. That same principle holds true for people who telecommute/work from home. According to Global Workplace Analytics:
- 43% of employees telecommute with some regularity
- Working at home has grown by 173% since 2005
- 56% of employees do work where some of what they do could be done remotely
- More than 60% of workers say they could do some work remotely
Types of telecommuting injuries
Anyone who works at home can suffer many of the same types of accidents that occur at work.
Some of the more common telecommuting injuries include:
- Repetitive stress injuries. Most people who work remotely are using the computer during a good part of their workday. These workers are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and other repetitive stress injuries.
- Slips and falls. Even as more technology becomes wireless, many workers are surrounded by wires that can make it easy to trip and fall. The new layouts of people’s homes, to accommodate remote workstations, can also prove troublesome.
- Lifting injuries. Lifting heavy work equipment can cause strains and sprains, as can working with heavy materials.
- Bending injuries. Constantly bending over to retrieve items or to pick up heavy objects can lead to strains and sprains as well.
Did the accident happen during work?
While the employee doesn’t have to be at a physical workplace away from home in order to file for workers’ compensation benefits, he/she does have to be working when the accident happens.
Employers who permit their employees to work from home will likely enact various policy requirements that define when the employee is working for the employer, and when the employer is working on his/her own. Workers who meet these policy requirements and are injured due to an accident generally can file an Alabama workers’ compensation claim. Workers who don’t meet these employer requirements may have their claim denied. Some of these policy requirements include
- Establishing the hours the employee will work including rest and meal beaks
- Defining the job duties
- Establishing protocols for a home office, perhaps including ergonomic considerations and other safety conditions
Generally, while telecommuters can file claims for injuries due to workplace accidents, it is much less likely that they will be able to file a claim for an occupational illness – since the employee is responsible for his/her home environment.
To review if you have a valid Alabama workers’ compensation, call the experienced work injury lawyers at Martin & Helms. Our Huntsville and Decatur workers’ compensation lawyers have the experience and resources to help you get justice. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 256-539-1990 or by using our contact form. We represent injured workers across North Alabama including Huntsville, Decatur, Athens, and Madison.