The COVID-19 pandemic forced a staggering 42% of U.S. labor to work from home full-time. As an ever-increasing number of office workers say that they want to continue working remotely even after the pandemic is gone, companies are facing a new challenge: “Are remote workers covered under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation law?”
In other words, can an employee seek workers’ comp benefits for an injury that they sustained while working from home? Workers’ compensation for remote workers remains a gray legal area, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced legislators to clarify state laws addressing the issue.
Are Work-at-Home Injuries Compensable Under Workers’ Comp Law?
Whether or not a work-from-home employee can obtain workers’ compensation for their injury at home depends on the facts surrounding the worker’s injury, particularly whether the employee was performing “employment services” at the time of the incident.
The issue was addressed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2017. In Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc., a worker had finished performing their job duties, clocked out, and was on their way to leave the office when an injury occurred.
The worker’s work area was located on the second floor of the employer’s premises, so the worker had to walk down the stairs. He was injured while descending the interior stairwell, though the worker was not able to identify what caused him to fall. The Commission ruled that the worker was not entitled to workers’ comp benefits because he had already clocked out when the accident happened. The ruling was affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals.
However, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling and found that the worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because the injury occurred while performing “employment services” in the course and scope of employment. The Court issued an opinion in which it specified what constituted “employment services.”
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What are ‘Employment Services’ Under Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation Law?
The Court ruled that the definition of “employment services” includes not only performing tasks that were specifically given by a worker’s employer, but also “other necessities of employment specified by the employer.”
A “Guide for Injured Workers” by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission provides that injured employees must prove that their injury arose out of the employment and occurred in the course of employment.
The definition also includes activities conducted by the employee at other locations designated by their employer when the performance of such activities is specifically directed by the employer.
Can Remote Workers Obtain Workers’ Compensation Law in Oklahoma?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers who were forced to shut down their offices directed their employees to work from home. Are work-from-home employees entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they sustain an injury at home?
Given the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2017 and the definition of “employment services,” a work-from-home injury could be compensable under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation law. However, whether or not a work-from-home injury is compensable under workers’ comp law will depend on various factors, including:
- The timing of the injury;
- The location of the accident; and
- Other circumstances surrounding the injury.
Consult with an Oklahoma City workers’ compensation attorney to review your particular case and determine whether you can seek compensation for your work-from-home injury while working remotely. Contact the Law Firm of BDIW Law to schedule a free case review. Call at 405-886-9660 to schedule a consultation.
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