Workers' Compensation Claims Involving Remote Workers: What Employers And HR Professionals Need To Know

Published date10 March 2022
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Health & Safety, Employee Benefits & Compensation, Employee Rights/ Labour Relations
Law FirmLewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
AuthorMs Lauren Motola-Davis, Gregory Tumolo and Nicole L. Andrescavage

Providence, R.I. (March 8, 2022) - The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the number of employees working from home on a part-time or full-time basis. "Hybrid" work arrangements - where employees work remotely on one or more workdays per week - are projected to remain a workplace norm long after the pandemic has ended.

As a result of the increased availability and desirability of remote work arrangements, employers have been forced to consider potential impacts to their operations that they may not have considered previously. One such impact discussed herein is workers' compensation claims brought by employees working remotely.

Most workers' compensation laws were enacted in the early 1900s - long before the advent of computers and the internet. These statutory schemes were intended to compensate workers for illnesses and injuries sustained at a workplace outside the home and under the control of the employer. The drafters of these laws hardly could have envisioned how they would be applied to work-related injuries occurring in an employee's home.

This alert will delve into the question of whether employees working remotely are covered under workers' compensation laws and will highlight developing coverage considerations in case law. We will also assess whether and when one's home may be considered a place of employment for coverage purposes. Finally, this alert will highlight best practices to minimize workers' compensation risk associated with remote workers.

Are Remote Workers Covered by Workers' Compensation Insurance?

Generally, an employee is covered under their employer's workers' compensation insurance if they are injured while working from home so long as they meet their burden of proving that the injury was work-related. However, state law governs workers' compensation coverage, and these laws vary from state to state.

Some states do not require employers to obtain workers' compensation coverage, while others explicitly require all employers to obtain coverage. New York, for example, requires workers' compensation insurance for all employers. See NY CLS Work Comp ' 10. However, "[t]he heart of every compensation act, and the source of most litigation in the compensation field, is the coverage formula. Forty-three states, and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, have adopted the entire British Compensation Act formula: 'arising out of and in the course of employment.'" See 1 Larson's Workers' Compensation...

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