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Remote employees, workers’ comp and the personal comfort doctrine

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2022 | Workers' Compensation

The number of people working from home has increased dramatically in the past two years. But what happens if a remote worker sustains an injury?

A remote employee could suffer an injury for a variety of reasons, which brings to mind the personal comfort doctrine. Does the employee qualify for workers’ compensation benefits?

Working remotely

According to a study undertaken by Owl Labs, 16% of companies worldwide are fully remote in terms of employment. Currently, more than 4.7 million people work from home on a full-time basis in the United States. About 62% of all employees say they occasionally work remotely.

Typically covered

In order to qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, remote employees must show that their injuries occurred during the time they were performing tasks for an employer. On the other hand, the courts generally find that an employer’s lack of control over an employee’s remote work environment is not sufficient cause to deny workers’ comp benefits. In other words, courts regard the hazards present in a home workspace in the same light as those in the employer’s office or job site.

Understanding the personal comfort doctrine

The personal comfort doctrine is a legal principle that finds an injury compensable if it occurs under “normal working conditions” while a remote employee attends to his or her personal comfort or welfare. This includes activities such as getting coffee or a drink of water or taking a bathroom break. Along with other injuries a remote worker might suffer during the workday, the court views injuries sustained under the personal comfort doctrine as those that are “deemed to have arisen out of the employment.”