Injured While Working At Home? What You Need To Know.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to rethink how work gets done. While employees working from home may have started as a temporary necessity, it is becoming increasingly clear that the format is here to stay for many businesses.
So what happens if you are injured while working from home? Surprisingly, laws have been on the books long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Is Your Home Considered A Second Worksite?
The California courts have addressed when a home becomes a second worksite for decades.
In Bramall vs. WCAB (1978), the Court determined certain factors that should be considered:
1) Was working from home a benefit to the employer?
2) Did the employment circumstances, rather than the employee’s convenience, require working from home?
3) Each claim must be analyzed based on the individual facts presented.
The courts have increasingly recognized that work is being processed outside of the business’s four walls. In CIGA vs WCAB (Schnieder) (2002) the Court held that since the employees’ laptop permitted him to “work anytime and anywhere” and because the employer expressly allowed the employee to work outside of the office, the injury was found to be work-related.
More recently, a court held in Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority vs. WCAB (Tidwell)(2017) that an employee’s injury in the bathroom at home was work-related. The Court determined that since the employee could not use the employer’s restroom due to a pre-existing disability and gave the worker permission to work from home, the worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Each Case is Unique
As the Court indicated in Bramall, each case has to be analyzed based on its unique facts.
Did the employer require work from home? Even if the employer didn’t explicitly require it, did the employer knowingly permit it?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, an employer benefits by avoiding a concentration of employees at its worksite, decreasing the chance of transmission of the virus between its employees.
Even if the employer required work from home, how did the injury occur? – lifting a box of work files or tripping over a toy on the floor? If the home is a second worksite, are all injuries at home, work-related? What about tripping over a shoe after work hours are over?
These are the factors that the Court will weigh when deciding if an injury suffered at home is covered by workers’ compensation.