Apr 28, 2020
Last week the New York Times reported that at least 316 million people in at least 42 states are under some form of government-mandated stay-at-home order. California was the first state to officially announce such directives. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing so many people to work from home, the Dordulian Law Group has been inundated with calls from concerned workers. Many of you have inquired about whether or not workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries sustained while working at home, and how to go about filing a claim for such an injury.
This blog is an effort to answer some of the more common questions we’ve encountered, and provide you with pertinent information that is accurate and up-to-date. First, let’s take an overview of working from home versus working on-site.
When working from home, you’re officially “on the clock,” which means your home is now your workplace. For workers’ compensation liability purposes, whenever you are working from home — whether required to due to a stay-at-home order or permitted to due to the nature of your job — you are covered by the same workers’ compensation insurance that extends when sitting at a desk in an office. Whether you’re working on a laptop in bed or sitting at a desk in your home office, you’re covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Of course, the operative word in the previous paragraph is ‘working.’ Workers’ compensation only extends when one is actually engaged in the act of working. In other words, you can’t be engaged in an activity that is uniquely for personal benefit (such as watching television or exercising) and still be covered by workers’ compensation insurance in the event of an injury. That said, whenever you are engaged in the act of working (whether at four in the morning or in the middle of the afternoon), you are covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Consider the following scenario:
You’re working from home and most of your workplace duties are completed using a computer stationed on a standing desk you have in your home office. In the unfortunate event that the standing desk tips over and lands on your foot, you’re covered by workers’ compensation insurance if you were working at the time of the accident.
However, if you were in the middle of an online yoga class when the desk tipped over and the injury occurred, although the desk is primarily used for your work activities, you would not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
It’s a pretty straightforward concept — any injury sustained while engaged in the act of working is covered. And as more people are working from home and experiencing injuries on the job, they’re also realizing that the possibilities and scenarios for such workplace injuries are indeed endless.
Most people tend to think of physical injuries when considering accident scenarios that could occur while working from home. And most of the workers’ compensation claims we encounter that involve injuries sustained while working from home are indeed physical.
You could be sitting at your home office desk and fall from your chair while on a conference call. Or, laying in bed working on an expense report when you take a step towards your slippers and end up tripping and falling. Either way, your injury is covered under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance (which is required for all California employers).
However, injuries are not always on account of a sudden accident, and do not necessarily happen immediately. In many cases, workplace injuries occur over time.
If a worker were to develop a condition due to repetitive physical stress such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or aggravate a pre-existing migraine condition due to working at home and staring at a laptop computer all day, both scenarios would constitute a covered workers’ compensation claim.
Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that workplace injuries are not always physical in nature.
In a scenario when someone is working from home and subjected to undue stress from a verbally abusive supervisor, in the unfortunate event that said individual suffers a heart attack or stroke from that abuse, the injury would be covered under a workers’ compensation claim.
The possibilities and scenarios are truly endless, and in handling countless workers’ compensation cases over the years we’ve come across claims that range from ordinary to unimaginable.
What’s most important is for workers to understand that regardless of where you’re working, you’re covered by workers’ compensation insurance if you’re working. The same rights that apply under the law when working from an office or any on-site venue also apply when working from home.
If you’ve experienced an injury while working from home please do not hesitate to contact Dordulian Law Group today for a free consultation. We have over 25 years of experience fighting for workers like you, and have successfully recovered over $50 million for our clients.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.