Work From Home: Important Legal Issues to Consider

Part 1 of 3

Cathy Divodi

Employers are attempting to abruptly navigate a multitude of new financial and logistical challenges associated with the health crisis while doing what they can to maintain their business. For those with limited or no prior experience with their employees working from home, there are a few important legal issues to be aware of to mitigate potential liability.

What happens if an employee gets injured at home?

Prepare for Inevitable Claims

There are going to be a lot of claims down the road for industrial exposure to the COVID-19 virus, especially for workers who are being required to continue working outside the home and in close proximity to other employees. For employees working from home, exposure to the virus is much less likely, but there will inevitably be claims for more “traditional” types of injuries that can occur at home just as easily as they could at the office. An employee can fall down the steps at home or at the office and the injury would be the same. Likewise an employee can make a false claim about falling down the stairs at the office or at home, in which case the attempted fraud would be the same. 

The Employer’s Response to a Claim

Whether a claim is made as a result of an injury at the office or at home, the employer’s response should be the same to the extent possible. If an employee reports an injury at home, the employer should initially attempt to determine if the employee is potentially reporting a “work injury.” If so, the employer should:

  1. Obtain as much factual information about the injury as possible.
  2. Send the employee a DWC-1 Claim form with instructions to complete and return it, if the employee wants to initiate a claim.
  3. Submit the claim for normal processing as quickly as possible. 

Prudent Steps

An employee at the office or at home may injure themselves in a variety of ways that may not be work related. The employee may request sick leave, health insurance information, FMLA or an accommodation for a non-industrial back injury, so it is important for the employer to determine why the employee is reporting the medical condition and then respond accordingly. It is important to ask questions such as, How did the injury happen? What time did the injury happen? What was the employee doing at time of injury and what is the employee’s work schedule?

If it is a workers’ compensation claim for an injury at home, the traditional AOE/COE standard still applies. Obviously, investigating a claim presents logistical challenges, but the legal analysis is the same. Just because an injury occurs at the office doesn’t mean it arose out of the employment-AOE or occurred in the course of employment-COE, and the same is true if an injury occurs at home. 

Please contact any member of your G2 team with questions you have about your insurance program or regulations that apply to your specific state.

This email was created in collaboration with David Benton Nusz, Partner at Black and Rose Employment and Workers’ Compensation Defense, 18301 Von Karman Ave Ste. 300 Irvine CA 92612 / O: 949-435-4260 C: 714-313-3337

LegalWork From HomeWorkers Compensation

Claims Management, Workers Compensation