With the country under a mass stay at home order, many companies are realizing that their employees can affectively perform their job tasks from home. As the work force makes this shift, employees should understand that injuries sustained at home could be compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
(Read to learn your rights if you got furloughed due to Covid-19)
Pertinent Facts for Off-Premises Injuries
- The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides that, when an injury occurs off the employer’s property, the employee must actually be engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business in order for the injury to be compensable.
- There is a legal principle known as the Personal Comfort Doctrine that states that the course of employment is not interrupted by certain acts relating to the employee’s personal comfort such as short breaks, using the restroom, smoking, seeking relief from discomfort and the like. This doctrine is used to determine when a personal activity is sufficiently incidental to the employment in order to permit compensation.
With those two factors in mind, working from home does not make a difference when considering workers’ rights. If the employee sustains an injury during an inconsequential or innocent departure from work during regular working hours, it is considered to have been in the furtherance of the employer’s business whether this happens at home, at an office, on a sidewalk, at a park…the location is inconsequential as long as the employee is in the furtherance of the duties of the employer.
These are actual cases I successfully won for previous clients:
At a Company Picnic at Dorney Park
An employee was leaning against a light post and wearing a wet bathing suit when the light went on and an electrical short happened simultaneously. The employee suffered nerve damage to their brachial plexus, a network of nerves extending from the spinal cord, through the neck, over the first rib and into the armpit. Why does a company have a picnic? To boost morale and promote team work. Going to the picnic was in the furtherance of the employer’s business.
Traveling for Work
An employee was staying at a hotel in Chicago for a business trip. At 11 pm and not able to sleep, he went for a walk and got hit by a car. It’s so late at night and clearly he was not working, however the employer sent the employee on this business trip and he would not have been on that street at that exact time but for the furtherance of the employer’s business.
At Physical Therapy
An employee has a back injury sustained at work and has a prescription for physical therapy. While performing exercises at the clinic, he injured his shoulder. Workers’ compensation for the shoulder is tacked onto his existing claim for his back because he would not have been at physical therapy but for the furtherance of the employer’s business.
A Fall at Home
A sales employee either works from home or travels. While on a conference call at home, she paces around her house, steps on a toy and falls down the stairs, seriously injuring her leg. This is compensable because her home is her office, she was on a work call and would not have been but for the furtherance of the employer’s business.
We will continue to provide guidance as this unique situation progresses. If you have questions regarding a specific claim, please contact me.