Telecommuting is one of the perks that 3.7 million people around the world enjoy. These individuals are able to spend at least half of their time telecommuting to their job, and the trend has grown 115% since 2005.
The number of employees offering work-from-home options has also grown 40% in the last 5 years.
And while telecommuting is convenient, there’s also a lot that employees don’t understand about it. For example, what happens if you’re injured while telecommuting? You’re in your own home, so a lot of employees assume that the injury is not work-related.
But is this the case?
State Laws Differ, But Most Protect the Employee
Each state has its own set of rules, but most states view a telecommuting employee as an employee. You will not be considered an independent contractor, so you will have the same rights as someone who is in the office.
“According to Illinois laws, telecommuters who are not independent contractors are covered by workers’ compensation. Injured workers can file for workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured while performing work for their employer, whether working from a company office, an outdoor construction site, or the comforts of home,” explains DePaolo & Zadeikis.
But that doesn’t mean that being injured at home doesn’t come with its own set of complexities.
There are likely no witnesses, so you need to act quickly and prove that your injury was work-related. The Workers’ Compensation Act requires that telecommuters:
- Prove injuries occurred during work hours
- Prove injuries occurred during the course of employment
- You cannot wake up in the middle of the night, find that your back hurts and file a claim. The claim must be related to your job duties. Insurance companies may have to honor state laws, but these companies do not want to make payouts.
Insurers want to pay out as little as possible.
The job tasks are not supervised, and it’s difficult to prove that the injury sustained is related to the job. Employers should also do their part by establishing safety policies for telecommuters. Most employers will not come to the employee’s home to conduct a safety inspection.
Employees may be required to perform their own safety inspections by the employer, and this would allow for the home workplace to be slightly safer as a result.
So, yes telecommuters are allowed to file workers’ compensation claims and collect benefits. The issue is that it’s much harder to prove that an injury occurred during the course of work because there are no supervisors or managers to witness the injury.
You can expect to provide extensive proof of the injury, and you may have the claim denied because it’s very difficult to prove that an injury occurred in the course of work. If an employer refuses to file a claim, you can contact a lawyer and also be sure to check your state’s law for telecommuter rights. You’re not an independent contractor, so the employer should offer you workers’ compensation even when you’re away from the workplace as long as you’re still working on behalf of the company at the time of your injury.
This article was first published by The Collegian.