Are remote workers entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits?
When an injury or illness happens during regular work hours, remote and telecommuting employees are often covered by workers’ compensation coverage. In 2011, an Oregon court case set the criteria for deciding whether an injured remote worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits (Sandberg v. JC Penney Co. Inc., 243 Ore. App. 342 (2011)). The court ruled that an injury must be related to and sustained during the course of employment for workers’ compensation benefits to apply. When a worker is hurt on the job, it’s because of anything inherent to their job or because of hazards present in the workplace.
The Oregon court determined that the following factors must be taken into account when determining whether or not an injury occurred during the course of employment:
circumstances that led to the injury; and
the injury’s location and date; and
The existence of a link between the injury and the employee’s scope of work.
The court ruled that an employer could not require an employee to provide the workplace’s furnishings and then use the employee’s lack of control over such furnishings to avoid providing workers’ compensation. Hence, employers have an obligation to provide their on-site and off-site staff with the same level of safety.
Do injuries covered by Oregon’s general rule also apply to workers who are working remotely?
If you get hurt on the job in Oregon, and it happens to be “in the course of” or “arising out of” your employment, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. The same holds true for injuries sustained away from the office, provided they happened in the course of the employee’s duties.
The “in the course of” criterion looks at when, where, and how the harm occurred. An accident that occurs on company premises makes determining liability straightforward. On the other hand, if a remote worker has the freedom to set his own schedule, the company has no grounds to dispute an employee’s claim that he was hurt at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday while undertaking work-related duties. Questions about injury reporting may also arise if the employee has a remote station and can work from a coffee shop or elsewhere.
The “arising out of” criterion looks at how the harm was related to the worker’s job. The worker must have been injured because of a risk he was exposed to on the job or in his working conditions. The required level of causality is low, but it must still be met. Employers face challenges when it comes to the safety of their remote workers because they cannot monitor their employees as closely. As a result, the “arising out of” prong presents a far more challenging analysis for remote employees, as the circumstance gives birth to a complicated interplay between work activities and non-work activities.
Learn more about Oregon's General Rule
How should an employer deal with if a remote employee has been injured?
The risk of injury at work is high for everyone, but it’s extremely high for people who do their jobs from home. As a result, companies need to learn how to identify injuries that could be considered work-related and train their managers and HR staff accordingly. Injuries can be treated immediately, and the insurance company notified if necessary.
Worker’s compensation and the “coming and going” rule
When there is a clear demarcation between work and home, the “Coming and Going Rule” makes determining compensation simple. There are limited circumstances in which a worker who is injured while commuting to or from work might be eligible for workers’ compensation. This rule, however, becomes more nuanced when one’s house also serves as a secondary place of employment.
10 Common work related injuries for Oregon remote employees
While remote work environments in Oregon differ from traditional workplaces, remote employees can still experience work-related injuries. Here are some common work-related injuries for remote employees in Oregon:
1) Ergonomic-related injuries:
Remote employees may encounter ergonomic challenges due to suboptimal work setups. Prolonged sitting, poor desk and chair arrangements, improper keyboard and mouse positioning, or inadequate monitor heights can lead to musculoskeletal issues like back pain, neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or eye strain.
2) Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs):
Remote work often involves tasks that require repetitive motions, such as typing, using a mouse, or operating a digital device. These repetitive actions can result in RSIs like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or bursitis.
3) Eye strain and vision problems:
Staring at screens for extended periods without appropriate breaks or proper lighting can cause eye strain, dry eyes, blurred vision, or headaches.
4) Falls and tripping hazards:
Even in a home environment, remote employees can experience slips, trips, and falls. Hazards such as loose cables, cluttered work areas, or poorly maintained flooring can lead to injuries like sprains, fractures, or head trauma.
See more about slip and fall accidents
5) Mental health issues:
Remote employees may face unique challenges related to isolation, work-life balance, and blurred boundaries between personal and professional life. These factors can contribute to increased stress levels, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
6) Burns and scalds:
Remote employees who handle hot beverages or cook while working from home may be at risk of burns or scalds. See more about burn injuries
7) Electric shocks and electrical accidents:
Inadequate electrical setups or faulty equipment can lead to electric shocks, burns, or other electrical injuries for remote employees. See more about electrocution workers comp
8) Home office accidents:
Accidents unrelated to work tasks can also occur in a home office setting. Tripping over household objects, reaching for items in awkward positions, or encountering other household hazards can result in injuries.
9) Work-related stress injuries:
Excessive workload, unrealistic expectations, or poor work conditions can contribute to stress-related injuries like headaches, fatigue, or muscle tension.
10) Strains from lifting or moving objects:
Remote employees who need to lift or move heavy objects as part of their work, such as equipment or supplies, may be susceptible to strains, sprains, or back injuries.
It's important for Oregon remote employees to be mindful of these potential risks and take proactive measures to create a safe and ergonomic workspace at home. Regular breaks, exercise, proper posture, and seeking support for mental health concerns can also contribute to overall well-being. Employers should provide guidelines and resources to help remote employees maintain a healthy and safe work environment.
FAQs for Workers Comp for Remote Employees in the state of Oregon
Are remote employees eligible for workers' compensation in Oregon? Yes, remote employees in Oregon are generally eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they sustain work-related injuries or illnesses while performing their job duties, regardless of their work location.
What is considered a work-related injury for remote employees? A work-related injury for remote employees in Oregon is one that arises out of and occurs in the course of their employment. This means that the injury must be directly connected to their job duties and activities, even if they are working from a remote location.
How do remote employees report a work-related injury? Remote employees should follow the same process as on-site employees to report a work-related injury. They should notify their employer as soon as possible and seek medical treatment if needed. Employers are then responsible for initiating the workers' compensation claim process.
Do remote employees need to prove that the injury occurred during work hours? Yes, for a work-related injury to be eligible for workers' compensation, it generally must have occurred during the course of employment. Remote employees might need to provide evidence that they were performing job-related tasks when the injury occurred.
Can remote employees choose their own doctor for treatment? In Oregon, injured remote employees have the right to choose their attending physician for medical treatment as long as the physician is authorized by the Workers' Compensation Division. There are certain procedures to follow when selecting a doctor.
How are workers' compensation benefits calculated for remote employees? Workers' compensation benefits are typically calculated based on factors such as the nature and extent of the injury, the employee's average weekly wage, and the medical treatment required. Remote employees' benefits are determined in the same way as those for on-site employees.
Are remote employees covered if they work out of state? If a remote employee works temporarily out of state but is still employed by an Oregon-based company, they may still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in Oregon. However, this can be a complex situation, and it's important to consult with legal experts to ensure proper compliance.
Can an employer dispute a remote employee's workers' compensation claim? Employers have the right to dispute a workers' compensation claim, whether the employee is remote or on-site. Disputes can arise over issues like whether the injury is work-related or the extent of the injury.
Are remote independent contractors eligible for workers' compensation? Generally, independent contractors are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors can sometimes be legally complex and varies based on factors like control over work and how the work is performed.
Where can I find more information about workers' compensation in Oregon? For the most accurate and up-to-date information, you should visit the official website of the Oregon Workers' Compensation Division or consult with legal professionals who specialize in workers' compensation law in Oregon.
Contact our experienced Oregon Workers’ Compensation Attorney
You need an experienced Oregon workers’ compensation attorney if you have been refused benefits for a work-related accident or sickness that occurred while you were working from home. Our experienced work injury attorney at Aldrich Law, LLC can help you decide how to proceed with your workers’ compensation claim.