You wake up in the morning, and instead of having to drive a 45-minute commute, you simply roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee and start your work day. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, this is the new reality for millions of Americans. But what if you get hurt at home? Do the traditional Workers’ Compensation rules apply to you?
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals were forced to work from home. Some found this change unwelcome, while others celebrated and still champion the work-from-home revolution.
Those in support of the change state that the comfort of home and the saved commuting time make them just as, if not more, productive at their job while providing greater emotional well-being. These home office heroes vow to never see the walls of a cubical again.
Other less zealous proponents of working from home still prefer a better work-life balance, settling for a flexible hybrid schedule where they may only be required to be in the office a few days a week.
Employees were not the only individuals that benefitted from the work from home trend. Employers benefited, as well, no longer having to spend substantial amounts on overhead concomitant with employees coming into the office. The saved money on downsizing office spaces and possible greater worker efficiency appears to be a “win-win” for employers’ bottom line.
This is a new phenomenon that differs drastically from our way of life pre-pandemic. Despite this new norm, previous workers’ compensation law still applies and you are still protected under Connecticut’s Workers’ Compensation Law if you are injured while working at home or injured while in other non-office settings.
Workers’ Compensation is a system of providing benefits to an employee for injuries occurring in the scope of employment.
In Connecticut, for an employee to be entitled to Workers’ Compensation, an employee must sustain an injury which occurs during the course of the employment and be the result of a risk involved in the employment, or incidental to it or to the conditions under which it is required to be performed at the employer’s benefit.
This means an injury occurs in the course of employment when it takes place: (1) within the “period” of the employment, (2) at the place where the employee may “reasonably” be, (3) and while he/she is “reasonably” fulfilling the duties for the employment or doing something incidental to it.
These are very fact specific requirements. However, if an employer permits an employee to work from home, and the employee sustains an injury during their typical work hours and in a way reasonably related to their employment, then employees working from home are just as entitled to the protection of workers’ compensation benefits as employees working in the office.
An injury sustained for the benefit of the employer is still an injury sustained for the benefit of the employer whether the injury occurs at home or at the office. If one injury is compensable in the office, the injury should be equally compensable if it is sustained in the home, provided it still is in compliance with the law as it currently stands.
It is also worthy to note that because a workers’ compensation claim is heavily fact-driven, one should seek legal representation regarding any injury or illness if one believes the injury was sustained during the course of their employment.
Factual issues regarding injuries sustained at home may trigger scrutiny under the “personal comfort doctrine,” which essentially states that employees’ status and workers’ comp protections do not change when they take breaks for personal comfort measures, such as lunch. Navigating how this doctrine affects compensable work place injuries requires knowledgeable legal counsel.
Additionally, workers should be hypervigilant to ailments, as many compensable injuries or illness not only result from immediately apparent traumatic inflictions but also from repeated exposure, and may go unnoticed until the symptoms become unbearable or diagnosed by a doctor. Again, another good reason to contact an attorney.
The bottom line is that employees should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about any injury, illness, or negative effect of their employment—no matter the setting—and should not hesitate as there are time requirements in which to make a workers’ compensation claim (one year from the date of sustaining an injury from a workplace trauma; for a repetitive injury, one year from the date of last exposure or last day of work; or one year from the time a doctor informs you that your injury was caused by work).
Cramer & Anderson’s highly-experienced Workers’ Compensation attorneys and legal staff—whose goal is always prompt results—have achieved settlements reaching the high six figures and exceeding $1 million in some cases.
Learn more about our Workers’ Comp practice and meet the members of our comp team: https://www.crameranderson.com/workers-compensation/
About Cramer & Anderson
Cramer & Anderson provides sophisticated legal services, close to home, with regional offices in New Milford, Washington Depot, Kent, Litchfield, Danbury, and Ridgefield. For more information, see the firm’s website or call the flagship office in New Milford at (860) 355-2631.