People have worked remotely for decades. We used to call it telecommuting, and it happened soon after the rise of the internet. However, in the years since the Covid pandemic, working from home has become the norm in many industries. Almost anyone who can do everything they need to do with a computer has the option to work from home now. In response to this trend, Ohio passed new legislation earlier this year to establish rules about work-related injuries and workers' compensation for people who work out of their homes. These new guidelines went into effect on September 23, 2022.
Specific Criteria Must Be Met for a Work-From-Home Injury to Be Compensable
While it was never easy to get approval for a work injury sustained at home in Ohio, the new law makes the limitations clearer. Specifically, it bars workers from receiving compensation for "an injury or disability sustained by an employee who performs the employee's duties in a work area that is located within the employee's home and that is separate and distinct from the location of the employer" UNLESS these three conditions are met:
- The injury or disability arose out of the worker's employment.
- The injury or disability was caused by a special hazard of the employment activity.
- The injury or disability was sustained in the course of an activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer.
According to those who drafted the legislation, it does not actually change Ohio law; it just lays out specific parameters to provide consistency in decision-making across the board. They say the law was necessary to address the increase in workers' comp filings since the Covid pandemic.
What Does This Mean in Practical Terms?
Courts in states across the country have reached various contradictory decisions about workers' comp for remote workers injured in their homes. For example, a woman who was attacked by a neighbor while working from home in Tennessee was denied workers' comp, but a New Yorker who was shot while working from home had his claim allowed. There have been multiple workers' comp claims across the country from remote workers who have tripped on pets, with varying outcomes.
The best way to illustrate the new Ohio restrictions is with examples. Lets' say you are working in your home office and get up from your chair to retrieve a work document from your printer. You trip on the chair leg and fall, breaking your ankle. Because you were performing an exclusively work-related activity, the injury should be compensable. However, if you take a break from work to feed your dog and fall down the stairs, this would not be compensable, even if it happened during work hours. If your employer sent you a heavy box of documents to process and you strain your back carrying the box to your home office, this should be compensable. If you slip on ice in your driveway retrieving a personal package during the workday, it would not be covered.
The new legislation will probably not apply to repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome because carpal tunnel is usually handled as an occupational disease, which has separate criteria to meet to establish compensability. However, if you spend your day at a computer—whether it is in a home office or not—and you suffer a disability because of it, you should qualify for workers' comp.
Get Help From Monast Law Office
With over 30 years of experience as a workers' comp attorney in Ohio, I have helped injured workers understand and comply with many new laws and guidelines. If you think you have a compensable work-from-home injury, contact Monast Law Office to discover how we can help. Learn more by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, then fill out our online contact form or call our Upper Arlington office at 614-334-4649 to get started.