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Telecommuting and workers' compensation in New Jersey

With an increasing number of jobs offering telecommuting options, the potential for home office injuries leads to questions about whether such incidents would be eligible for coverage under workers' compensation. Interestingly, a few cases across the United States have resulted in the provision of workers' compensation benefits to employeeswho were injured while taking advantage of the opportunity to work from home.

In 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a directive indicating it would not conduct home office workplace safety inspections for privacy reasons. Employers should still make safety practices at home an important topic to address for their telecommuting employees, however.

Two cases, one from Oregon and one from Utah, are interesting. A man from Utah salted his snowy driveway in 2000 in apparent preparation for a postal carrier's arrival with a package being delivered from his company for his job. He slipped and became a quadriplegic. The Utah Labor Commission ruled in the man's favor, ruling that he was entitled to coverage because his injuries occurred during the course of his employment. In the Oregon case, a woman who was an at-home interior decorator tripped over her dog while ostensibly walking to her garage in order to look at fabric samples. Although her claim was initially denied, her appeal was granted and she, too, was found to be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for the injuries she sustained.

Both cases are illustrative of how benefits can be available for workers who are injured while on the job. Employers should take care to address safety with their at-home workers. Those who are injured while in the course of their employment, whether on-site or at home, may wish to speak with an attorney to determine if coverage is available.

Source: Safety+Health magazine, "Working (safely) from home", Tom Musick, Jan. 25, 2015

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