Even before the world found itself gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people were working from home. In fact, prior to the pandemic, almost 7 percent of private sector workers were working from home, up from 5 percent in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum.
Of course, many more of us are now working from home if possible, thanks to stay-at-home orders from state governments and employers encouraging telecommuting as a form of social distancing.
Just because more of us are working from home, though, doesn’t mean that standard workplace protections no longer apply. Your employer still has rules they’re required to follow if you’re working from home. In fact, there may be additional rules they have to follow depending on where you live – and now work.
If you’ve sustained a work-related injury at home or believe your employer is violating your rights in some way, speak with a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney from the Jebaily Law Firm as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation, and we’d love to work with you.
Call us or reach out to us online for a free case review.
Workers’ Compensation Laws on Employing Remote Workers
Like most things having to do with the COVID-19 outbreak, the laws governing working from home, workers’ compensation claims, and other related matters are still in flux. Nevertheless, courts have found that workers’ compensation rules still apply to employees working from home.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, for instance, applies to people who work from home. That law requires employers to make reasonable changes to a workplace or how someone does their job to account for their disability.
Working from home may be an accommodation in and of itself, but employers may have additional obligations, especially in a situation where employees have no choice but to work from home. Employees may not have access to things like adjustable chairs, standing desks, and other tools to avoid injury at home, and it’s up to employers to account for this.
As far as non-disabled workers go, there are three general components to showing an injury at home was work related. They are:
- Was the employee doing work or otherwise benefitting their employer when they were hurt?
- Was the employee required by their employer to do whatever activity led to their injury?
- Did the employer approve of the activity in advance?
Common Types of Work-From-Home Injuries and Illnesses
Here are some common work-home-home injuries, including a few pulled from recent reports around the country:
- Burns from sipping or dropping coffee while taking a personal break.
- Tripping over a family pet while moving around the home.
- Slip-and-falls while moving around the house or while heading to a specific room for a meeting, etc. In one case, an employee reportedly fell in their driveway while going to retrieve a briefcase containing important work-related materials from their car.
- Repetitive-motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Back or neck injuries from working with equipment that isn’t ergonomically optimized.
- Fires and electrical hazards.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for People Working from Home
South Carolina law requires any business with four or more workers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This applies regardless of whether the employees work from home or not. The only exceptions are for independent contractors.
However, the rules governing who is or is not an independent contractor aren’t determined by employers. What matters is how much control the employer has over the employee.
Some important questions that determine whether you qualify as an independent contractor are:
- Does your employer pay you directly?
- Do they tell you to do the work in a particular way or in a particular timeframe?
- Are they the ones providing you the necessary equipment to do your work?
- Do they have the right to fire you?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you are most likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer a covered work-related injury or occupational illness.
The difficult element when it comes to workers’ compensation cases involving injuries sustained at home is showing that the injury was directly related to your work. This is much easier to show when you’re injured at the workplace instead of at home, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. It just means you want an attorney with experience handling these cases to make sure everything goes smoothly.
There’s a two-year statute of limitations on workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina, so hiring a knowledgeable workers’ comp lawyer is crucial to making sure your case goes through in time.
How Do Employers Make Sure a Workplace Is Safe?
There are a number of actions both employers and employees can take to make sure the employee has a safe working environment at home.
First, the employer can ask the employee to limit their work activities to a specific room or rooms.
Second, they can ask the employee to take pictures of their workspace, or they can visit the employees’ home to make an inspection themselves.
Once they’ve gotten a feel for the workspace, it may be prudent for employers to offer ergonomic equipment like standing desks to employees. Employers should also encourage employees to double-check staircases, railing, floors, and other trouble spots to limit the potential for slip-and-falls, trips, etc.
Do You Need Legal Advice? Our Lawyers Are Ready to Help
Working from home can be very beneficial for employers and employees alike, especially in a pandemic situation, but employers still need to respect their employees’ rights and protections.
If you’ve sustained an injury while working from home, it’s important to speak with a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney immediately. We can help investigate your case, establish your claim, file the necessary paperwork, communicate with your employer, and seek the compensation you’re entitled to.
To get started, call the Jebaily Law Firm today for free claim review. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay us anything until we collect on your behalf.