According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), small business owners are responsible for providing employees with safe work environments. All home-based workers have the same workers’ compensation benefits as in-office employees.
Read more about the New York State guidelines Here
First, ensure that your Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance policy is up to date. Then refer to your company’s emplopyee handbook or contact your company’s HR department to review the telecommuting policy. If your company doesn’t have one in place, inquire about any updates or get a guideline in writing.
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Telecommuting or working from home has become more and more popular over the years as technology has advanced. The COVID-19 pandemic has mandated companies, who otherwise would not have had employees working from home, force employees to work from home. Employees are searching their living space for the perfect workstation — trying out couches, tables, beds. During video conference calls, people apologize for their backdrops: garish valances, piles of toys, etc.
As a result of working from home or telecommuting, one common question is, “What happens if I become injured?” New York State Worker’s Compensation affords injured workers, the presumption that unwitnessed or unexplained accidents that occur during work are covered by the employer’s insurance. However, employees that work from home have a higher burden placed on them if they have the unfortunate occurrence of a work-related accident that occurs while working at home.
Different standards are in place to analyze whether injuries are compensable based upon where an employee is required to work. Employees who are required to travel for work are provided more latitude, and most accidents that occur while on a business trip are covered. The opposite is true for telecommuters. The Workers Compensation Board has taken a much stricter standard for telecommuters. It is unclear with all the employees who are forced to work from home if the rule will change.
Currently, the scope of compensable injuries to employees working from home is limited. The Workers Compensation Board has said employees who work from home, outside the direct physical control of their employers are potentially able to alternate between work-related and personal activities when they choose. For this reason, an injury sustained by employees working from home will only be compensable when they occur during an employee’s regular work hours and while the employee is performing his or her employment duties. Injuries that occur while the claimant is not actively performing his or her work duties, such as taking a short break getting something to eat, or using the bathroom will be found to have arisen from a purely personal activity outside the scope of the employment. If an employee is in his or her office and uses the bathroom or gets a snack from the break room, it will be covered by the insurance company.
In addition to a specific discreet accident, an injury can occur over time based upon the use of equipment for the employer. As a result of COVID-19, people have been displaced from their offices and forced to set up offices in their homes. These makeshift office spaces include laundry rooms, kitchens, hallways, or anywhere a quiet area can be found, and a laptop can be set up. Working from home 7 to 10 hours a day hunched over a computer or iPad can cause problems over time. These new makeshift environments are not ergonomic work stations; if you are experiencing problems as a result of the environmental conditions from your work area, it may be covered by Workers Compensation.
It is more likely than not that your employer’s insurance company will deny your claim for Workers’ Compensation if it is filed for an injury in your home. It will then be up to the New York State Workers Compensation Board to decide. A Law Judge will hold a trial and hear testimony to see if the injury occurred during the performance of your work duties.