Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic rise in employees working remotely in many sectors. With technological advances, workers that work from home can be just as plugged into the office as if they were there physically. While they work from home, the company benefits from increased moral and lower operating costs. However, if a worker gets hurt while working from home, are they entitled to the same workers’ compensation? The answer is dependent on several factors, but typically they are entitled to compensation.
Employee Versus Independent Contractor
When it comes to your entitlement to worker’s compensation, your classification matters. For some remote employees, they are not full employees, but independent contractors. This means they are not entitled to the same benefits and one of those benefits is workers’ compensation. If you are an independent contractor and got hurt, you will not be covered by worker’s compensation, but if you are a full employee, in most cases, you will be able to file.
Injured During the Course of Employment
Worker’s compensation law in Minnesota is very clear that in order to receive worker’s compensation, you must be injured while working. If you were injured on your lunch hour, while horsing around, or on the work premises while not clocked in, you will not be able to file for worker’s compensation.
This is even more of an issue when you work from home. Many work from home so they can watch their kids and have more freedom to work and do non-work activities. This means that if your work day is a mix of those activities, if you get hurt, it can be more difficult to get your worker’s compensation claim approved.
However, if your claim was denied because they did not believe you were injured in the course of work injuries, all is not lost. The precedent for this was set by the case Munson v. Wilmar/Interline Brands. In this case, an employee was injured by falling down the stairs walking from their home office to get a cup of coffee downstairs. The employee had been working until they hit technical difficulties and went for a coffee break. As such, when they fell and injured their spine, the employer denied their worker’s compensation claim. The judge decided that the personal comfort doctrine applied to the case. The personal comfort doctrine states that small breaks such as small meals, bathroom breaks, or, in this case, coffee breaks do not interrupt the course of employment. Thus they are considered work activities.
In this case, even though the employee was on a coffee break, they were able to get worker’s compensation for back surgery as a remote worker. This means if you are a remote employee and were hurt in a way that was not strictly in line with work activities, then you may still be able to get compensation.
In short, if you are a remote employee, so long as you are classified as an employee and not an independent contractor, if you are hurt during work hours, you do have a shot at getting worker’s compensation coverage. Not all injuries will be covered, however. If you developed carpal tunnel from working at home, this can be covered. If you were running errands during work hours and crashed your car, then this would not be covered. However, for many injuries in between, the personal comfort doctrine as used in the case above may also apply to your case.
If you were injured in Minnesota, whether you are a remote worker or have to trek to the office each day, contact us today. Let the Law Office of Joshua Borken help get you the compensation that you deserve.