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How Employers Can Handle Work-at-Home Injury Claims

With so many Californians working from home, injuries can still happen, and employers need to know how to handle these claims.

California was one of the first states to issue a stay-at-home order when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. While the order was intended to keep everyone in the state safe, employees that work from home are still susceptible to injury. With employees working remotely, it is important that employers and workers alike know what to expect when they become hurt on the job.

The Law on Workplace Injuries

In Temecula, as throughout the rest of California, employees that are injured on the job are generally entitled to workers’ compensation that can help offset the financial cost of their injuries. In most cases, injuries occur at the employer’s place of business. While there are always exceptions to this, those exceptions are becoming even more common than they were before the pandemic hit.

The Exception When the Home is a Second Job Site

An exception to the law is when an employer explicitly or implicitly tells the employee to work from home. After receiving authorization to work at home, any time an employee is injured while performing their work in their own residence is considered a workplace injury. To determine whether an employee is eligible for workers’ compensation for these injuries requires an analysis regarding what the employee was doing at the time of the injury.

Employees and employers alike often take this to mean that the injury must be directly related to the employee’s work, but that is not necessarily true.

The Personal Comfort Doctrine

Under the personal comfort doctrine, any activities that are required for the convenience, welfare of the worker, or personal comfort of the employee are also compensable if the employee was working at the time.

For example, if an employee develops carpal tunnel after working on the computer for months at a time, that is clearly a compensable injury. However, when an employee is working from home, they may trip over a child’s toy while getting up to get a cup of coffee. Although the employee was not engaged in work duties at the time of the accident, they were still technically working for their employer and so, any injuries that result are compensable.

While the personal comfort doctrine allows workers to receive compensation for many injuries, it does not cover all injuries when an employee is working from home. When an activity would not occur in an employer’s workplace, the injury is not compensable. For example, if a worker decided to work on part of their home renovation on their break while they were working at home and they became injured as a result, that injury would likely not be compensable.

How Employers Can Limit Injury Claims

Employers can take many measures to limit injury claims when employees are working from home. They should ensure all workers have a safe space to work in the home, encourage workers to take breaks, and provide workers with the resources they need to work in a safe space. Any time an employee complains about the safety of their workplace, employers should respond as quickly as possible and offer whatever assistance possible.

Our Employment Lawyers in Temecula Can Help with Workplace Injuries

If you are an employer that is concerned about workplace injuries, or an employee that has been hurt on the job, our Temecula employment lawyers at Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP, are here to help. Call us today at (951) 291-9814 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation and to learn how we can help with your case.