The office desk or cubicle has been exchanged for the living room couch and kitchen table as more Americans telecommute and work from home. Work-related injuries suffered while telecommuting or working from home may trigger workers’ compensation rights.
Employers have health and safety responsibilities for their employees working from home, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These duties are not as strong as the responsibilities for on-site or in-office workers.
According to OSHA, injuries or illnesses suffered at home are work-related if these took place while the employee was performing work for pay and compensation. Also, the injury or sickness must be directly related to an employee performing work and not to the general home environment or location.
For example, a worker suffers a work-related injury by dropping a box of work documents on their foot. Or an employee receives a puncture wound that becomes infected from using a sewing machine to make garments for their employer. OSHA would not find that a worker suffered a work-related injury if they were electrocuted because of faulty home wiring when they were working.
OSHA does not inspect workers’ homes. It will not hold employer’s responsible for their employee’s home offices and does not expect their employers to inspect these locations.
OSHA will advise workers about its policy if they submit a complaint to the agency. If an employee makes a specific request, OSHA will provide informal notification to the employer about home office and conditions but will not take further action.
North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law, however, provides benefits for a work-related injury or illness. Benefits pay for medical care, most lost wages if workers need time to recover, disability benefits and funeral expenses for deceased workers.
Seeking compensation from work injuries suffered at home pose obstacles because of the employer’s lack of control, the absence of witnesses and the overlap of work and home and other issues. An attorney can help injured workers deal with these issues and pursue their rights.