While working remotely was certainly not new at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented 42% of the U.S. labor force transitioned to working at home. Many of those workers chose to remain at home for work if their employers allowed it even after businesses reopened. That opened the door for a unique and challenging proposition: Are remote workers covered under Workers’ Compensation insurance if they become injured at home?
Are Injuries Sustained While Working at Home Covered by Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Law?
Determining whether or not Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation law covers a work-at-home injury depends on the facts surrounding it. The most important factor relates to whether or not the employee was performing “employment services” when they sustained the injury.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc. that a worker leaving the job premises and falling down the stairs was not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits because they had clocked out. The high court later reversed its ruling and allowed benefits.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that “employment services” includes not only performing tasks that are assigned to the worker by their employer, but also “other necessities of employment specified by the employer.” These other necessities could include coffee breaks, smoke breaks, obtaining a drink, or taking a lunch break.
The difficulty an employee that works at home faces is proving they were injured while rendering “employment services” or during applicable and allowable “other necessities of employment.” Any remote worker that sustains an injury while working from home should immediately consult with an Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation attorney for guidance.
What Are the Most Common Work-from-Home Injuries?
The most frequent injuries sustained by remote workers seem to stem from poor work environments. These cumulative injuries occur over time from working in poor circumstances, such as a chair with bad ergonomics, or neck pain and eyesight strain from improper mechanics of using a laptop or other computer.
Less frequent but still more common than others are slip, trip, and fall injuries. Workers at home can be more prone to trip over toys, the dog bowl, or poorly lighted stairs.
How Can Remote Workers Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Oklahoma?
Based on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling in 2017 that defined “employment services,” a remote worker can receive Workers’ Compensation benefits if they sustain an injury while working at home. However, the burden of proving the injury and how it occurred is on the remote worker.
Be sure to document the injury, how it occurred, your specific actions when the injury occurred, and any other relevant information. An experienced Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation lawyer from Armstrong Law Firm, P.L.C. can review your case during a free consultation to help you decide your next steps. Contact us today by phone at (918) 582-2500 or complete the form on our contact page.