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Remote work, workers’ comp and the personal comfort doctrine

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2022 | Workers' Compensation |

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2022 | Workers' Compensation

With millions more employees becoming remote workers these days, the question of workers’ compensation benefits often comes up.

Does an injured remote worker qualify for such benefits, and could that employee file a claim under the “personal comfort doctrine”?

About workers’ compensation coverage

In various court cases, employers have pointed out that they have no control over the home environment of an injured remote worker. But the court generally rules that this is not sufficient reason to deny a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The court believes that providing a safe work environment for a remote employee is no different than doing the same for an employee who works onsite.

Common injuries for remote workers

Many injuries for home-based employees occur to hands and wrists, shoulders and backs since these are often ergonomically related. Chairs, for example, may not offer the proper support. Workers might use dining tables or kitchen counters, and, as workstations, these are too high. Injuries can include anything from painful neck to lower back issues. Laptops present other problems depending on the surface on which they rest. If the worker has to reach up to type, wrist and hand injuries can result.

The personal comfort doctrine

The personal comfort doctrine comes into play if a remote employee suffers an injury while performing a personal activity during “normal working conditions.” Such activities might include taking a water or coffee break or going to the bathroom. The view of the court is that because certain acts of personal comfort are “necessarily contemplated,” any injuries that occur during those activities arise out of remote employment and are eligible for coverage under workers’ compensation.