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Are telecommuters covered under workers' compensation?

Yes. In general, an employee injury or illness is compensable under workers’ compensation if it arises out of and in the course of employment, regardless of the location the injury occurs. Employees typically have the burden of proving that the injury is work-related. “Arising out of” refers to what the employee was doing at the time of the injury, and “in the course of” refers to when the injury happened. To successfully claim workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must show that he or she was acting in the interest of the employer at the time the injury occurred. Courts have found that an employer’s lack of control over the conditions of an employee’s home-based work premises is irrelevant. When an employee’s home is also an employee’s work premises, it is often interpreted that the hazards an employee encounters when performing work at home are also hazards of his or her employment. Employers are responsible for providing the same safe work environment for telecommuters as for employees who work on company property.

Employers can implement the following practices that may limit workers’ compensation liability for home-based employees:

  • Create a telecommuting policy that outlines the employer’s expectations for employees who work from home. For a sample policy, see Telecommuting Policy & Procedure.
  • Establish guidelines for a home office, such as a designated work area, and provide training related to workstation setup and safety measures, including ergonomics.
  • When appropriate and possible, conduct periodic checks of employee home offices to help identify and eliminate work area safety hazards.
  • Set fixed work hours and meal and rest periods for telecommuters. Doing so can help establish whether an injury was “in the course of” employment.
Workers’ compensation laws vary by state, and employers are encouraged to work with their workers’ compensation carriers as well as their legal counsel to determine strategies to manage workers’ compensation risks for their telecommuters.


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