Telecommuters and Workers Comp

How Should Employers Treat Workers Comp Claims from Telecommuters?

telecommutersWith the rise of the internet, more and more people work from home, “telecommuting” into the office through email, Skype, chats, and shared storage like DropBox and Google Docs. Workers at a home office can still injure themselves while working for their employer, but because of the nebulous line between home and telecommuters, working in telecommuting jobs, workers comp claims become more complicated.

A recent survey from WorldatWork showed that 88% of companies offer employees some form of telecommuting, whether the job is occasionally done from home, or the employee has an at-home office.

The question has become a priority for many employers and employees after workers comp death benefits were recently denied to a family when a woman died from a blood clot after working at her home desk for 10-hours straight. The plaintiffs argued that her job required her to consistently sit for long hours, and that the sedentary nature of her job contributed to her blood clot.    AT&T, her employer, argued that she should have stood up and stretched, walked around, and taken reasonable breaks to prevent such health issues.

When employee telecommuters, an employer has less control over the “home office.” In order to ensure healthy telecommuting employees and clear workers comp guidelines, employers should create a list of job expectations. For example:

Define the boundaries of the home office, to specify premises liability.

  • Limit work hours and set specific breaks.
  • Clearly describe the scope and expectations of a job.
  • Require the employee’s workplace to be free of hazards.
  • Be clear about the telecommuting policy, and enforce it. State with the employee that telecommuting is a privilege that can be revoked if the employee acts irresponsibly.

OSHA does not currently hold employers liable for employees’ home offices, but the employer will be held responsible if the injury, accident, or death occurs directly because of the employee’s job, and workers comp would apply.

The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation

By law, every South Carolina employer with four or more full-time employees must have workers compensation insurance. Any full-time employee (working for an employer with four or more employees) who has an employment related injury and needs medical attention should be covered under workers’ compensation insurance. It doesn’t matter if the injury was a complete accident or the fault of a co-worker. The employee MUST notify his or her employer within 90 days of the injury or risk losing the right to benefits under workers compensation. (It is recommended that you record details of your accident and to whom you reported it.)

The workers’ comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.