Can remote employees receive workers’ compensation benefits, and if so, how?
Workers' Compensation - May 9, 2023
Also known as work-from-home employees, remote employees have become an increasingly common part of the workplace, and with that comes questions about workers’ compensation for remote employees.
Eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits as a remote employee
Workers’ compensation covers nearly all employees in Illinois. It doesn’t matter where the work is performed — as long as you are employed (either part-time or full-time), you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer an injury or illness on the job in Illinois.
Independent contractors are excluded
It’s important to keep in mind that only employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Other types of workers, such as independent contractors, are not. In general, an independent contractor has control over the type of work they do and how they perform that work, while an employee’s services may be controlled by their employer, even if they work remotely.
In addition to verifying employment status, the employee’s illness or injury must have “arisen out of and in the course of employment.” In other words, it must have occurred while the employee was fulfilling their job duties and resulted directly from their work. While remote workers may be less susceptible to certain types of workplace injuries, many types of remote work can cause injuries that meet these criteria.
Types of work-related injuries that remote employees may experience
Most remote workers perform primarily computer-based tasks. These tasks are particularly likely to result in repetitive strain injuries to the muscles, tendons, or nerves, which occur after performing the same motion or task over and over again.
Although traditional office workers can also suffer these injuries, the presence of ergonomic equipment in many offices can help to reduce the risk. Remote workers, who often lack this type of setup in their home offices, are especially vulnerable to repetitive strain injuries due to this disparity.
Common computer-related injuries
Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis are two of the most common computer-related repetitive strain injuries, and both are associated with a variety of activity-limiting symptoms of the wrist and hand. Remote desk workers may also suffer injuries to the back and neck due to prolonged sitting or poor posture. Some employees may even suffer injuries to the eye, sometimes resulting in permanent vision damage, due to the extended use of digital screens.
Occasionally, remote employees may have duties that require them to work outside of a home office setting, whether that’s delivering items or attending off-site meetings. These duties can result in many of the injuries and illnesses traditionally associated with workers’ compensation claims, such as slips and falls or motor vehicle accidents.
Filing for workers’ compensation benefits as a remote employee
The process of filing for workers’ comp for remote employees is no different for remote employees than it is for any other employee. If you have suffered an on-the-job injury, you should notify your employer of the injury as soon as possible and fill out a workers’ compensation claim form. Your employer will submit this form to their insurance provider, who will review the claim and determine if it meets the eligibility requirements.
While your claim is processing, your employer should provide you with a list of medical providers that are covered by their insurance. You should then make an appointment to be evaluated and treated for your injury or illness, keeping in mind that the doctor you choose must be one of those on the list.
Your employer will tell you whether your claim is accepted or denied within a few weeks of filing. If approved, you should start receiving benefits soon after being notified. If denied, you may be able to appeal the decision with the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Potential complications when seeking benefits
Although remote workers are just as eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as any other employee, filing a claim can be more difficult due to the nature of their job. These complications can increase the risk of unfair denials or delays, but working with an attorney can help reduce the likelihood of these issues.
One possible complication is proving that the injury was caused by work activities. Remote employees are less likely to have witnesses or supervisors who can provide testimony on behalf of the worker. They may also lack documentation or detailed records about their work activities and could struggle to prove that a particular injury was caused by their job.
Remote employees who perform their job duties in a different state than their employer may also experience difficulty when filing their claims. Different states have different workers’ compensation regulations and laws, so the rules for filing a successful claim may vary depending on where the injury occurred.
Generally, workers’ compensation claims involving remote employees are subject to the laws of the state where they perform their work — not the state where their employer resides — but employers may be unaware of this fact and may not provide the correct information to their remote workforce.
Turn to our attorneys for assistance with workers’ comp for remote employees
If you are a remote employee who has experienced an on-the-job injury or illness, Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates may be able to help you file a workers’ compensation claim.
Our attorneys are prepared to guide you through the claims process, take proactive measures against the potential complications unique to remote employees, and help protect your rights as an injured employee. Contact us today at (800) 985-1819 to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney.