Today’s job market is changing. One of the fastest trending changes seen in the market is that of the telecommuting workplace. Telecommuting is becoming more common for large-scale corporations as well as small, locally owned operations. Thanks to the improvements and technological developments, combined with the workforce’s increasing desire for a flexible work setting, more companies and individuals have turned to the use of telecommuting.
Telework is an arrangement between an employer and employee. This gives the employee a degree of flexibility in their schedule and work environment. Some employees telecommute from home once a week, while others have their primary place of employment at home.
Legal Issues with Telecommunication
When employees work from their home, interesting legal issues have arisen – with one of the largest being that of workers’ compensation. It is difficult to determine what is considered an injury that “arises out of employment” – especially when an employee is working from home. For example, if an employee trips over their rug while walking to the printer, she could claim that her injury was the result of her employment. After all, she would not have tripped had she not been retrieving a work-related print out from her printer. But, the question remains: would she have still tripped over that rug regardless of whether she was working?
The laws governing telecommuters are similar to those that govern individuals physically working in the traditional workplace environment. If an injury or illness arises as the direct result of employment, under New York law, then that injury or illness is covered under workers’ compensation insurance benefits. If, however, that injury or illness is not deemed work-related, it is not covered.
The key requirement is determining if that injury or illness is work-related. The three factors that should be considered in order to determine such include:
- The time the accident occurred and the location within the home. For example, did the injury occur during the employee’s telecommuting working hours? Was the employee injured in their home office or were they injured in their backyard during a recreational activity?
- What was the employee doing at the time of the injury? If the employee was engaging in work-related tasks then they are eligible for workers’ compensation, but if the task is deemed “personal” or non-business related, they may not be eligible for compensation.
- What is the employer’s policy for keeping the workplace at home safe for employees? Do they have a clearly written policy for telecommuting workers?
The Complexities of Workers’ Compensation for At-Home Workers
Injuries that occur in a traditional workplace environment are easier to document and prove. When an injury occurs in a traditional workplace, there are often witnesses to that injury. Also, that injury is reported immediately to a supervisor. When injuries occur at home, those injuries may not be witnessed and/or immediately reported to a supervisor.
Also, the issue of traveling to and from work for work-related tasks – such as attending weekly meetings – raises further issue regarding workers’ compensation. If the telecommuting employee is driving to an annual check-in meeting and is involved in an accident, would they be covered under workers’ compensation because they were on their way to a work-related activity?
Speak with a New York Workers’ Compensation Attorney Regarding Your At-Home Work Injuries
If you telecommute or work from home full-time, deciding if you have a valid workers’ compensation claim often requires the assistance of a legal professional. An attorney from Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. can assess the facts regarding your telecommuting injury and help determine if it is work-related. If so, we will aggressively protect your right to compensation under New York worker’s compensation laws. Call 1-877-737-4806 now to schedule a consultation or ask an attorney a question online.