Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | January 23, 2020
These days, more and more people are starting to work from home. This marks a major shift away from traditional office and factory jobs and is changing the way business is being done. If you work remotely, you may be wondering what kind of benefits you are entitled to under the law.
Now, if you get hurt, you are probably interested in knowing what rights you have, given your work situation. With standard employment environments, workers’ compensation is typically the go-to option for these types of injuries.
But, if you work from home, it not always clear whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation, and this determination will depend on a variety of factors. The matter is even more complicated if your employer is located outside of Georgia. This is because you will need to follow the laws of that state, which can make your claim more complex.
Overview of Workers’ Compensation in Georgia
Now, workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that most employers in Georgia are required to carry. It is considered “no-fault,” which means that your injuries will be covered even if you were partially to blame for the accident. The benefits fund the cost of your medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and even lost income during the period when you are unable to work or can only do so in some limited capacity.
However, to qualify, your injury must occur on-the-job. This means that it must arise out of and in the course of your employment. Note that “arise out of” requires that there be a connection between the type of work you perform and the resulting injury. In other words, if you suffered a brain aneurysm while typing at a computer, this injury would likely not be covered.
Further, “in the course of” employment means that you must have suffered harm while on the clock and at work. Therefore, falling and hurting yourself after business hours would not be an injury that qualifies for workers’ compensation coverage even if it occurred in your home office.
Challenges of At-Home Injuries
Note that you are not barred from workers’ compensation purely on the basis of working from home. However, establishing these types of claims can be more difficult. Because you are on your own, your statements may be the only evidence you have to substantiate your claim.
Now, one way to establish your home as the place of employment is proof that you regularly work remotely and use your employer’s equipment – such as a computer and headset – to do your job. In proving that you were working at the time, it can be helpful to show that you were logged in and on the clock. This evidence may come in the form of company logs or screenshots.
In other words, you want to show that you weren’t doing chores or other personal tasks around the house when the accident occurred. Remember, being involved in non-work activities, such as taking a shower or washing the dishes, would disqualify you from coverage.
Finally, as mentioned, your injury must arise out of the work you were doing. So, if you are a programmer, evidence that you suffered carpal tunnel while typing or tripped on a computer cord would be more likely to result in a successful claim than if you hit your head on a garage door.
Further, it’s important to note that in all cases you must report your injuries to your employer right away. If you wait longer than 30 days, you may lose your right to coverage.
No Workers’ Compensation for Independent Contractors
Keep in mind that one of the key considerations in all workers’ compensation cases is whether you are classified as an employee or an independent contractor. This is because independent contractors are not entitled to benefits.
However, the fact that your employer classified you as an independent contractor does not necessarily mean that the law sees you the same way. Instead, the court will look at a number of factors, including:
- The method of payment
- The length of your work arrangement
- The employer’s right to control your work – including the hours you work, and materials and tools you use, and
- Whether the employer can hire and fire you.
Generally speaking, the more control the employer has over your work, the more likely you are to be considered an employee and eligible for workers’ compensation. With that in mind, if your claim has been denied by your employer and you are unsure about your employment status, reach out to an attorney.
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