By Aaron Schmidt, Esq.
With more employees working from home due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, many policyholders have turned to SFM for answers on liability questions concerning the home office.
As a starting point, many state courts view the home office as an extension of the workplace.
In general, injuries sustained by an employee during normal working hours, and during the actual performance of work activities while at home are compensable. This does not, however, mean that injuries sustained by employees in a home office at the employee’s residence are necessarily afforded the same presumption of work relatedness as injuries occurring at the employer’s office. Therefore a careful analysis of the facts is necessary.
Activities such as maintaining and setting up a home office, snow blowing a driveway, and shoveling snow from the driveway to allow for business travel have been found to be compensable in some states. Furthermore, the travel between an employee’s home and another portion of the employment premises have also been found compensable.
It is important to note as well that the personal comfort doctrine, which holds compensable injuries sustained on the employer’s premises while attending to personal needs and comforts, has been extended to employees in some states where they were injured in their own homes while on breaks from work in their home office. As an example, Minnesota courts have found compensable an employee that was injured when he fell down the stairs after leaving his home office on the way to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.
To learn more about this topic, see our workers’ compensation and the home office telecommuter blog post.
SFM also has a number of other resources related to telecommuting and COVID-19 on our COVID-19 resources page.
This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.