Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals recently denied workers’ compensation benefits for a woman injured while she worked from home. According to the court’s opinion, the woman sustained injuries to her knee, hip and shoulder in 2016 when she tripped over her dog while reaching for a coffee cup. But, even though the injury occurred during her normal workday, the majority found she ran the risk of tripping over her dog whether she was working or not.
This case brings up interesting issues for remote workers, who at least in theory could claim the same workers’ compensation benefits as those working on site. But, the court’s focus on the details of the case might cause problems for remote employees in the future.
Working from home makes workers’ comp claims harder to prove
Generally, workers’ compensation provides employees with funds to help offset medical bills and lost wages when they sustain injuries at work. As the court pointed out, the main issue is whether the injury “arises from” someone’s employment. This often means injuries caused by the work someone is doing.
The judges who rejected the woman’s claim reasoned that this type of injury could occur long after her employment ended. As long as she owned a dog, she ran the risk of tripping over it. But, two dissenting judges argued that tripping over personal property would not necessarily prevent an onsite worker from recovering compensation.
Remote workers can still recover
The majority’s opinion did point out that employees working from home could, under some circumstances, claim workers’ compensation benefits. For example, someone who types all day could recover compensation for a repetitive stress injury stemming from that work. But, based on the line of reasoning in this case, the blurry line between home and work for remote employees acts as a roadblock for recovery in many instances. Employees working remotely should consult with a skilled workers’ comp attorney to build the best argument possible for recovery.