Are Telecommuters Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?
California’s workers’ compensation program offers no-fault coverage for employees with occupational injuries or illnesses. Injured workers can recover benefits for their medical care, lost income and other damages after suffering workplace injuries, regardless of fault. Workers’ comp will cover all job-related injuries, including those that occur outside of the workplace. This may include injuries telecommuters, or remote workers, suffer at home. If you have more questions, our San Diego workers compensation lawyers offer free consultations to those who suffered an injury while at work.
What Is Telecommuting or Remote Work?
Telecommuting has expanded in popularity around the world thanks to modern communication technologies. Telecommuting refers to performing one’s job remotely, often from home, through the use of technological aids such as cellphones and computers. Common positions that permit part-time or full-time telecommuting include sales, customer service, administrative work, computer programming and data entry. Many telecommuters are independent contractors, meaning they work for themselves. Others, however, are employees of a company. This is an important differentiation in a workers’ compensation claim.
The workers’ compensation system in California does not cover independent contractors. It only offers benefits to employees in the state. If the telecommuter is an employee, he or she may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation payments after an injury – even if that injury occurs at home or somewhere other than the place of work. As long as the injury or condition arises from the course of employment, workers’ compensation will cover damages. If the telecommuter qualifies for coverage under the employer’s insurance policy and the injury occurred while performing job-related tasks, the worker will be eligible for benefits.
California Labor Code Section 3700 states that every employer in the state of California with one or more employees must purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Sole proprietors may also purchase workers’ compensation insurance, but it is not a requirement. Only employees, or people in the service of an employer via express or implied contracts, may qualify for coverage. The law does not say anything about not including telecommuters or people who suffered their injuries at home while working. Telecommuters who are employees, not independent contractors, are eligible for workers’ compensation just like other employees in the state.
How to Prove a Telecommuting Workers’ Compensation Claim
The steps for obtaining workers’ compensation coverage are reporting the injury to the employer, filing a benefits claim and supplying supporting documentation, if necessary. For an injury or illness that occurs while telecommuting, the insurance company may ask for additional evidence. The insurance company may need proof that the worker was performing work-related tasks at the time of the incident. A lawyer can help an injured telecommuter gather evidence to support the benefits claim.
- Timesheet showing when the worker clocked in and out
- Records of the worker’s typical hours worked in a shift
- Work-related emails, phone calls or communications before and after the incident
- The worker’s accident report to his or her employer
- Paystubs or paychecks
- Medical records and hospital bills
- A medical expert’s opinion on when or how the injury happened
- Eyewitnesses to the accident
A telecommuter who suffers an injury while in a home office setting can receive the same amount and types of compensation as an employee with an in-office injury. Proving the validity of the claim, however, may be more difficult. Since a coworker or supervisor did not directly see the accident happen, the injured employee may need other forms of proof. If the accident occurred during a designated break or after working hours, the employee may not be eligible for benefits.
If a telecommuter successfully files a workers’ compensation claim in California, the benefits he or she receives could pay for weeks or months out of work during recovery. Injured employees in the state will receive two-thirds of their gross weekly wages up to a statewide maximum. They can also recover the costs of related health care and disability expenses. An injured telecommuter can maximize his or her recovery by working with a personal injury attorney.