"Defending Workers’ Compensation Claims by Remote Employees"

Bloomberg Law

As businesses continue to commit to full-time remote and hybrid workforces, Lisa Wade and Jon Spencer authored an article for Bloomberg Law discussing the continued challenge of defending workers’ compensation claims when the alleged injury occurs away from the traditional place of work.

“Although the basic tenants of workers’ compensation law apply to remote employees, these employees’ claims do present unique challenges to the employers, adjusters, and attorneys involved in them,” Wade and Spencer said. “In handling workers’ compensation claims involving remote employees, we need to address five specific areas: the work environment; the reporting of the injury; the investigation, the employee's treatment after an injury; and the employee's ‘return to work’ issues.”

Some issues to consider in the work environment include whether the employer is required to have workers’ compensation insurance, clearly defining remote workers’ normal working hours and job responsibilities, requiring the employee to define the physical location of his or her home workspace and whether employees have the appropriate equipment to work efficiently and safely.

Employers should also make clear the employees’ responsibility for reporting an injury immediately, as well as the means and process for making those reports. On the employer side, a specific person should be designated to receive those reports, and those responsible for starting an investigation and reporting to the insurance carrier should be trained on their required processes.

Investigations will differ from traditional workplaces since there are usually no witnesses to a remote employee’s injuries, so obtaining a clear statement is going to be pivotal in determining whether the injury is work-related and whether there are any defenses for the employer. Additional considerations are toto determine whether there are any videos of the accident (e.g. home security cameras) and whether a post-accident site inspection may be appropriate. In determining what may constitute an injury arising out of or in the course of employment, Wade and Spencer also highlighted considerations for determining whether an incident is job-related or in the place of work.

The final two areas deal in mitigating cost once a claim is granted, including treatment with prompt and proper medical attention and returning the employee to work through accommodations. While there is little difference in providing medical treatment whether the employee is in-person or remote, returning an employee to work from their home may require an inspection of the home office to make sure the work environment meets any light-duty restrictions.

For the full article, please see the PDF here, or Bloomberg Law subscribers may click here.

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