Increase in Workers’ Compensation Cases from Remote Work Expected

Remote work has taken precedence in the U.S. economy, out of all other types of work, due to the coronavirus. Millions of workers have been ordered to work from home out of a safety for themselves, and for others. There will most likely be a rise in workers’ compensation claims where the injury was incurred at home. Such injuries may include posterior cervical dorsal syndrome, “mouse shoulder”, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, lumbar strains and sprains, and disc injuries.[1] A primary example is the case of Sandberg v. JC Penney, where a worker tripped over her dog at home, albeit during working hours. Sandberg successfully received workers’ compensation for her injuries.[2] There are numerous examples of how prolonged use of a computer/laptop can cause an injury, including eye strain.

An example from which remote workers have legal remedy is N.J. statute 34:15-12.7 which lists damage to personal aid devices, such as eyeglasses or prosthetic devices, as compensable, if such damage was incurred during employment.[3] Many workers who would otherwise not be using a computer are now doing so. Working from the comfort of home elicits injuries that might otherwise not have been incurred. The lax environment with which a person is used to has now been fused with the work environment. A cup of water next to one’s laptop might cause a liquid spill accident on the laptop, causing electrical shock, for example.

How will this global pandemic affect the way we view work? The coronavirus has forced most Americans to stay home, slowing down the economy considerably. Telework is the Achilles heel to such a slow-moving economy. Considering the events that have transpired, telework will be viewed with more favorability. The legal consequences of this are still developing. Employers who had not normally employed individuals remotely will understand that it is a different dynamic. Employers will seek to limit their liability in this changing landscape. Updating employees with an employee handbook detailing expectation for remote work would be possible. For example, one company might emphasize adequate childcare for children at home. Such a policy would “not be intended to allow for you to be watching your child(ren) while simultaneously working.”[4] Companies updating their policies about telework will help reduce the gray area that would otherwise create legal issues. Not only is it beneficial for employers, but it also is beneficial for the employee. Outlining clear guidelines such as maintaining safe and clean workspaces, just as would be provided in the workplace, would be beneficial for all parties.

[1] Weatherall, Vic. “Common Computer-Related Injuries.” Advance Chiropractic, Dr. Vic Weatherall 2019, Feb. 2020, www.advancechiro.on.ca/common-computer-related-injuries/.

[2] “Can I Get Workers’ Comp If I Work from Home?” Dickerson Oxton, Dickerson Oxton Law Firm, www.dickersonoxton.com/can-i-get-workers-comp-working-from-home/.

[3] “2009 New Jersey Code :: TITLE 34 – LABOR AND WORKMEN’S COMPENSATION :: 34:15 :: 34:15-12.7 – Damage to Prosthetic Devices, Hearing Aids, Artificial Members;   Dental Appliances or Eyeglasses;  Liability.” Justia Law, 2020 Justia, law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2009/title-34/34-15/34-15-12-7/.

[4] Jay, Rachel. “A Sample Remote Work Policy for Employers.” Remote.co, 2015-2020 Remote Co., 28 Nov. 2018, remote.co/sample-remote-work-policy-for-employers/.

 

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.