While New Jersey is working its way through a phased reopening, there are still plenty of employees who will continue to work from home until a vaccine is found and administered. This has led many who are able to perform their duties in this capacity to wonder whether workers compensation still covers them.
As with many legal questions, the answer is “it depends.” The employee will need to prove that the injury arose out of and in the course of employment.
For office workers, certain repetitive stress injury claims may not be at all impacted by working from home if they can be clearly tied to job duties requiring the employee to type or use a mouse for hours at a time.
You may also find it easier to file a claim if it can be proven that you were doing work at the time of your injury or accident. If you were on a Zoom call and fell out of your chair while reaching for a file then it would be hard to dispute that you were at work and that the injury arose from your employment.
If you paused to pick up one of your children and injured your back you’d have a harder time, even if due to the hour of the day you were technically “at work” at the time of your accident. Picking up your child has nothing to do with work even if you are on the clock, even if your employer is understanding of the fact that right now you are stuck at home with your children and doing the best that you can.
The burden of proof in these cases is always going to be on you, the employee. Make sure you document the injury as always, but document what you were doing at the time of the injury and who you were doing it for.
In these cases you can expect the workers compensation insurance company to fight a little harder. They will be looking for fraud and looking for workers who are trying to claim workers compensation just because they were on the clock. You are likely to need a workers compensation attorney from the very beginning of the process just to ensure your claim isn’t summarily dismissed and swept under the rug.
The good news is the courts themselves are usually willing to be fairly broad in their interpretation of what constitutes an injury arising out of the course of employment. They’ve even covered injuries taken during regular work breaks at home, like bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, and meal periods.
The courts have even affirmed death benefits in the case of one woman who had a pulmonary embolism from being required to sit at her desk for long periods of time because the blood clot that killed her developed while she was at work. See the 2011 case James P. Renner v. AT&T.
Nevertheless, courts, too, are alert to cases where employees are taking care of personal business at home. Thus they do offer plenty of scrutiny before ruling in an employee’s favor.
Think you might have a case? Contact Talone Law to get legal advice today.