Telecommuting and Workers’ Compensation
Today, many workers are able to enjoy working from home at least part of the work week. Some employees never need to step foot into a physical office. A lot of work can be done through computers where workers can keep track of their hours. With videoconferencing and new software, workers can meet with their employer and coworkers online.
Workers who telecommute can still injure themselves at home while they’re doing their jobs. An employee can stumble over a loose cable wire, fall, and injure their arm. A fire can happen while they’re working. Workers can fall down the stairs. Some at-home workers do suffer heart attacks. Back and neck injuries can happen or worsen at home. Workers who use a computer are often susceptible to repetitive stress injuries.
But can a telecommuter file for workers’ compensation? In some cases, yes, he or she can.
Key considerations in filing telecommuter worker’s compensation claims
As with accidents that happen at work, the telecommuter does not need to prove fault. The worker doesn’t have to show the home complied with OSHA guidelines or other standards. The key requirements are that worker was an employee, the accident happened while the employee was working, and that the accident caused the worker’s injuries.
Experienced workers’ compensation lawyers in Tennessee are ready to address the following issue that employers will likely raise: Was the accident work-related? Insurance companies will try to argue that the worker was injured while he/she was doing something personal. At a work site, it’s easier to argue that everything the worker was doing, including taking a coffee break or going to the restroom, happened during work.
At-home workers should try to establish a log-in and log-off time to help verify they were working when they were hurt. The time stamp on files can also help verify the employee was working
Most workers work a routine schedule 9-5. Many telecommuters work when it’s convenient – even 1am in the morning. The more regular hours the telecommuter keeps, the easier it is to prove the accident happened during working hours.
Was the telecommuter an employee or independent contractor?
Generally, only workers who are employees are eligible for state workers’ compensation benefits. Whether a worker qualifies for employee status depends on how much control the employer had over the worker. Some factors that indicate an employer controlled someone who telecommutes are:
- How the worker was paid. A 1040 indicates employee status. A 1099 indicates an independent contractor status.
- The number of hours worked. A close to 40-hour week suggests the worker was an employee.
- The duties performed. The more the employer controls the tasks the worker does and how they were done, the more an employee status is indicated.
Employees who telecommute are more likely to use company equipment or company software. Who picks up the Internet expenses and what other types of jobs the worker does also affect the employer vs. independent contractor status issue.
If a telecommuter is not eligible for workers’ compensation, he or she may need to go through his or her health insurance or even homeowners’ insurance, instead. You should consult with an attorney about these types of claims, to make sure you’re getting the accurate legal advice you need.
The workers’ compensation lawyers at Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law have been aggressive advocates for work injury victims since 1945. We explore every avenue for arguing that you were injured while working and that you should then be paid wage loss benefits and have your medical bills paid. We represent injured workers, including telecommuters, in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, and in North Georgia. To schedule an appointment, please call us at 423-756-7923 or use our contact form.
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