While employers can't mandate how and when remote employees do their jobs, they can at least try to come up with affirmative directives.
"On the one hand, the employer doesn't really have any right, per se, to come into your home and say you have to work in a certain way," said Niki Ingram, shareholder with Philadelphia-based law firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin. "On the other hand, they can give you suggestions."
Ingram, the assistant director of Marshall, Dennehey's workers' compensation department, suggests employers provide appropriate equipment for employees who work out of their homes. The more structure, the better, she said.
"If the employer fits you with a chair and a desk, then any back problems are probably less likely to be work-related," Ingram said. Suggest to employees that they keep an area that is separate for the business operations, as well as scheduled working hours.
If an employee does his work for the employer in a designated room in his home during specific hours, injuries that happen outside that time frame or in another location are less likely to be deemed work-related, Ingram said. However, that doesn't mean an injury occurring outside the location or hours is conclusively not work-related.
"The gray area is when the employee puts in a load of wash and slips on a cord" while working, Ingram said. "Your investigation needs to be very fact specific in terms of what happened."
When an off-site employee is injured, Ingram suggests getting the answers to these questions:
- Where in the house did the injury occur?
- Where does the person usually work, i.e., in which room?
- What type of work does he do?
- What was the mechanism of injury? If the employee tripped, for example, how and why did it happen. Was he answering a residential phone call or the door bell?
"What's not going to be covered is if the worker does something that is not in furtherance of the employer's work," Ingram said. For example, if a person is doing call center work from his home between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. has an injury at 2. "It's probably not in furtherance of the employer's business, so it's probably not covered."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 18, 2010
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