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Can I get workers’ compensation if I get hurt while working from home?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

These days, more of us are working from home than ever before. Some jobs, like waiting tables or plumbing, can only be done in person, of course. But due to the ongoing pandemic, many Pittsburgh offices remain closed, with its workforce doing their jobs remotely.

While you might miss seeing your coworkers or dealing with customers in person, working from home can be much more convenient and comfortable. But you may still be vulnerable to work-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and so on. Does the fact that you were working at home when you got hurt prevent you from collecting workers’ compensation?

Activities, not location, is the key

In short, the answer is no. No matter where you work in Pennsylvania, you may potentially be entitled to workers’ comp. That includes home offices. As with any workers’ comp claim, the worker must show that their injuries were “engaged in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer.” There is no requirement that the injury occurred in a premises under the employer’s control, i.e., an office, warehouse, etc.

However, the reality that your workplace is in your home can complicate things. Your home is both your workplace and the place where you eat, sleep, spend time with friends and family and relax. The combination of work and non-work activities can lead to your employer claiming that you were hurt during a non-work task.

Important court ruling

But it can be done. In one case that reached the court of appeals, a woman was taking a break in her kitchen when her boss called. Taking the phone with her, she began walking down the stairs to her home office but tripped and fell, hurting her neck.

The employer denied her workers’ compensation claim, saying the fact that she had gone upstairs for a drink showed that she was not in the course of her work duties when she fell. On appeal, the court ruled that a drink break falls under the “personal comfort” doctrine, which holds that a brief “innocent departure” from work, like a bathroom break, does not disqualify a worker for workers’ comp if they get hurt during that time.

As you can see, these cases can be complicated, but a work injury is a work injury, no matter if you work in a busy workplace or at your kitchen table.