The pandemic sent more people to work from home than ever before. As restrictions eased, many businesses continued to allow their employees to work remotely. This development raises a crucial question: Does workers’ compensation cover remote workers in Maryland? The short answer is yes, but workers’ comp claims involving remote employees can have complications that a traditional workers’ comp case might not. Employers and insurance companies may be more likely to fight a workers’ comp claim related to a remote worker’s injuries, which can create legal headaches for injured employees.
If you suffered an injury while working from home, Trollinger Law LLC can assist with your workers’ compensation claim. Our legal team has extensive experience with Maryland workers’ comp cases and a proven record of successful results. Let us review your case, explain your options, and manage the legal work for you. Healing should be your top priority, not fighting for benefits you are entitled to by law.
Call us today or visit our contact page for a free consultation with a Maryland workers’ compensation attorney.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Apply to Remote Workers?
Maryland law requires most companies to provide workers’ compensation for their employees, whether an employee works full-time or part-time. If an employee is covered by workers’ compensation insurance and suffers a qualifying injury, they can receive benefits regardless of where the injury occurs. As long as the employee was performing a work-related task at the time of the injury, they should receive coverage.
Example: You sprain your back while tossing a load of laundry in the dryer. In that case, you are conducting a personal task, not a work-related one, and likely would not qualify for workers’ compensation. But what if the same injury happened while you were getting a cup of coffee before a Zoom call? Given how fuzzy the boundaries between work and personal tasks can be when someone works from home, proving an injury is work-related can be challenging without help from an attorney.
Living in the D.C. metro area can also complicate matters. Many Maryland residents work for companies based in Washington, D.C. or Virginia. In those cases, different workers’ compensation laws may apply. If you suffer an injury while working remotely and do not live in the same state as your employer, seek advice from an attorney immediately.
Maryland Requirements for Workers’ Comp for Remote Workers
Maryland workers must meet several eligibility criteria for workers’ compensation. First, they must meet the state definition of an employee, meaning they work for a business with one or more workers. Independent contractors generally do not qualify for workers’ comp benefits as long as they are correctly classified.
Assuming remote employees qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, they must show how the injury relates to their work duties. For example, the “coming and going” rule generally prevents employees from recovering compensation for injuries related to their commute. Similarly, employees usually cannot recover compensation for injuries they sustain while taking care of personal errands. But the line between personal and professional tasks can blur when an employee works from home.
Next, an injured remote employee must show that their home qualifies as a work site. Maryland courts have established a three-part test to determine whether an employee’s home qualifies as a work site. That test is based on the following factors:
- Place – Whether an employee’s home qualifies as a work site depends on how much work the employee performs at home, how often the employee works remotely, whether the employee keeps work-related equipment at home, and whether it is necessary for the employee to work from home, not simply convenient. Furthermore, an employer must have given the employee permission to work from home or at least known the employee was working remotely. These factors vary from case to case, and your personal circumstances determine whether your home qualifies as a work site.
- Time – Employees generally cannot recover compensation for injuries sustained outside their work day. However, distinguishing between work periods and non-work periods is challenging when someone works from home. Proving an injury at home happened while you were working could be difficult.
- Activity – Per Maryland’s workers’ comp laws, employers do not have to cover injuries that occur when an employee is not performing work-related tasks. Therefore, remote workers must show they were engaged in work-related duties when they got hurt. Meeting this standard can be difficult in remote work claims, as these cases often lack physical evidence of how the accident occurred.
What Constitutes an At-Home Work-Related Injury?
The biggest issue in recovering compensation for remote work injuries is proving the injury occurred in the scope of the worker’s employment. However, “in the scope of employment” is terminology that gives workers some legal wiggle room. For instance, the personal comfort doctrine says employees can receive compensation for injuries sustained while engaging in activities necessary for their comfort or welfare as part of normal working conditions. Activities that fall under the personal comfort doctrine include going to the bathroom, eating lunch, and taking a smoke break.
If an employee can show they sustained an injury while doing a work-related task or attending to their personal needs as part of their usual work day, they likely qualify for workers’ comp benefits. Some examples of at-home injuries that may qualify for workers’ compensation include:
- Slip-and-fall injuries while going to the bathroom, kitchen, etc.
- Electric shocks or burns from exposed wires or defective company equipment
- Repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back and neck injuries from an employee using non-ergonomic furniture.
What’s Covered and What’s Not Covered?
If your workers’ comp claim gets approved, your benefits cover any reasonable medical bills related to the injury. Workers’ comp also includes disability benefits if your injury causes you to miss several work days. These benefits are set at two-thirds of your average weekly wages, up to a limit set by Maryland law. Unlike a personal injury claim, a workers’ comp settlement does not cover non-economic losses like pain and suffering. If you have permanent injuries, you may be entitled to a permanency award that will compensate you for the effects the work injury has caused on your ability to perform your job or activities of daily living. If you have permanent injuries, you may be entitled to a permanency award that will compensate you for the effects of the work injury has caused your ability to perform your job or activities of daily living.
Get Legal Help from Our Trusted Workers’ Compensation Attorney
States like Maryland continue to consider how remote work applies to existing workers’ compensation laws and procedures. If you sustained an injury while working from home, don’t try to figure out the rules yourself. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer at Trollinger Law LLC to learn whether you are entitled to benefits. Our job is to help you overcome the administrative hurdles that lead to unfair claim denials and get you the money you deserve. Reach out today for a free consultation with a skilled workers’ comp attorney in Maryland.