People are working from home more than ever before. Though many workers are only telecommuting temporarily due to COVID-19, even before the pandemic 4.7 million Americans were already working from home, according to data issued by the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey by Gartner, Inc. found that 88% of businesses around the world mandated or encouraged their employees to work from home as the virus started to spread.
As working from home (also known as WFH) continues to become more popular, new telecommuters might be wondering whether workers’ comp coverage for stay at home workers in Vermont is available, especially considering the ongoing pandemic. Our Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer explains.
Are Telecommuters Covered Under Workers' Compensation in Vermont?
The answer to that question is yes, with very few exceptions. If you are a WFH employee, whether temporarily or full time, you should be covered. In general, any employee injury or illness is compensable under the Vermont workers’ compensation system if it arises out of and in the course of their employment, regardless of the location where the injury occurs. The same applies in most other states as well.
However, if you don’t have an employer (i.e. you own your own business or are a freelancer), you will have to take out your own workers’ comp insurance to be covered. Only those WFH employees who are employed by someone other than themselves can claim benefits from their employer.
How to Claim Workers’ Comp Benefits
To successfully claim workers’ compensation benefits, you must show that you were acting in the interest of your employer at the time the injury occurred. Proving you were injured on the job may be slightly more difficult in WFH workers’ comp claims since there are generally no witnesses or surveillance footage to back up your claim. However, as long as you go to the hospital to receive a diagnosis for your injury and inform your employer in writing of the incident right away, providing as much detail about how it occurred as possible, you should have a valid claim. Once you inform your employer of the accident, they will provide you with the appropriate paperwork as well as instructions on what to do next. But if they refuse, Vermont offers a Form 5 you can fill out, email, fax, or mail to the Vermont Department of Labor to get started
What Is Covered?
When an employee’s home is also an employee’s workplace, it is often interpreted that the hazards an employee encounters when performing work at home are also the hazards of their employment. Therefore, employers are responsible for providing the same safe work environment for WFH employees as for employees who work on company property.
So, what’s covered? Common injuries work from home employees often experience include carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, and slip and falls. However, any injury or disease which arises out of a work-related activity to be covered under workers’ comp.
Benefits you can receive include:
- All medical expenses related to the injury, including prescription and mileage reimbursement.
- Lost wages at 2/3 of your pay for time you had to take off work for recovery
- Job retraining (vocational rehabilitation)
- Death benefits in the event of injury-related death
- Additional money benefits if the injury and or disability is permanent
Successfully claiming benefits isn’t as easy in practice as it is on paper, unfortunately. There are many reasons an employer might deny a claim. Some reasons are legitimate, including insufficient evidence or a mistake in your paperwork. However, occasionally employers deny workers’ comp for the wrong reasons. They may be misinformed or underinformed. They may attack your credibility. They may hire a doctor they like, hoping for a return on their investment. In such situations, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can inform you of your rights, help you determine whether you have a viable case, and develop a plan for your success. Please contact us for more information if you have questions.
At the Law Office of Charles L. Powell, PLLC, I help injured workers throughout Vermont attain monetary compensation and medical care at a time when it is needed. To speak directly to a Vermont workers’ comp attorney, call me at (802) 731-0154 or send me a text using our online contact form.