Remote work – or telework – has always been a pretty big thing in Florida, even before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic sent all sorts of workers into their homes. It is estimated that about 6% of workers – that’s just over 1-in-20 – in Florida are remote workers who get the majority of their job done at home instead of a company office or store. Now that the COVID vaccine is rolling out, businesses are seeing an uptick in activity, and remote workers are comfortably in their telework routines, the question of whether or not remote workers will qualify for workers’ compensation coverage is looming over a lot of minds again.
The workers’ comp code from the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation does not say that workers must operate within a specified or dedicate workspace to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in case of an on-the-job accident. To this end, remote workers in Florida should qualify for workers’ comp if they would qualify for the usual reasons. For most workers, qualification occurs if they are not an independent contractor and work for an employer who has more than 4 employees, with some limited exceptions.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage for At-Home Accidents
Importantly, workers’ compensation coverage for remote workers in Florida still carries the same umbrella of coverage definitions, i.e., the covered worker must have been hurt while carrying out a job-related duty that happened during the “course and scope” of their employment. While working at home or your own remote office, you will probably encounter far fewer hazards than if you had to commute to and then work in a company HQ or retail location. You are also the only one who is responsible for the overall safety conditions of your home. Under these conditions, it can be more difficult to show that you were hurt in a job-related accident while under your own roof.
An at-home office worker who gets diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome linked to hours spent on a keyboard each week could have a good chance of getting workers’ compensation benefits, for example. On the other hand, the same office worker who trips over the leg of their computer chair in their at-home office while going to get a cup of water, falls, and hits their head might not. In that situation, the employer had no control over the cleanliness of the room or the condition of the office chair. The worker was also standing up to get water, which is not a work-related task.
When the link between an in-home injury to the work being performed is weak, it can be expected that the relevant insurance company will deny the claim and challenge it. Workers will have two options to pursue benefits: consider getting some sort of paid leave from their employer if the injury overtly does not qualify for workers’ compensation or fight the insurer and possibly their employer for workers’ comp benefits.
If you need to deal with an insurer or employer who thinks your in-home injury was not work-related and, therefore, does not qualify for workers’ compensation, Van Dingenen Law in Orlando would like to help. Schedule a free consultation with our firm to learn more about your options as a remote worker.