Telecommuting is becoming more and more common in the United States as technology makes it easier for employees to work from wherever they are and as cultural attitudes about remote working have shifted. In 1995, only 9% of U.S. employees ever telecommuted. In 2015, that figure rose to 37%. But what happens when you're injured on the job but in your home? Are you still covered under workers' compensation rules?
If you're working, you're still covered under workers' comp.
Many employees get injured when they're not on their employee's property but still doing work for the employer, and they're still covered under workers' comp. A classic example is when an employee is asked to run an errand for the boss during work hours and ends up in a car accident on the way back. While he or she isn't on company property, the injury still had a clear connection to their employment, so they're covered. The same rules apply to those who telecommute, whether they do it once or twice a month or every single day.
There has to be a casual connection between your injury and your work.
In other words, the time, place, and circumstances surrounding the accident that caused your injury are going to be the most critical things that have to be examined before your claim is awarded. Because you are working in your home office, your employer doesn't have the ability to monitor your activities and know when exactly you are and aren't "on the clock."
This can become especially complicated if you have flex-time capabilities, where your employer allows you to split your shifts and take extended breaks as long as you ultimately get your hours in and your work done. You can help reduce the possibility of your claim being denied by doing a few specific things as quickly as possible after the accident:
- Write down the exact circumstances that led to your injury in as much detail as possible. For example, if you had been working for an hour and went to reach to plug in your laptop charger when your chair tipped over and fell on you, describe how long you had been working, what part of your job you were doing, and what exactly led to the accident.
- Specify the exact location you were in when the injury occurred. For example, it could be important to note that you were actually in your home office when the injury occurred, rather than sitting at your kitchen table for a change of scenery.
- If the injury took place away from your home office, note exactly why you were somewhere else and how it related to your job. For example, if you only telecommute a few days of the month, you may not have a home office—but if your employer is aware of that and has okayed the situation, then it shouldn't be a problem. If you were in the garage when you were injured, were you stacking up paper supplies for the printer? If you were in the living room, had you just come from signing for a work-related delivery at the front door?
The more clearly you detail the causal connection between your injury and your job, the easier it should be for you to collect the benefits you are owed.
If, however, your employer is balking at paying for your injuries since you weren't "really" at work when you got hurt, it may be time to discuss the situation with a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. He or she can evaluate your situation and advise you on how to proceed based on the specifics of your case.