Working from Home and Workers’ Compensation
Working from home has become a fact of life for many employees in the United States today. In fact, the trend towards working remotely has been visible in our workplaces for nearly a decade. According to a CNBC report, the number of Americans working from home between 2012 and 2017 increased by five percent between 2012 and 2017. Floridians are surely on board with this trend. In 2018, Florida had the fifth highest number of remote jobs listings in the country. At that time, six percent of the population worked remotely, according to the CNBC report.
The steady increase in remote working has resulted in the application of existing laws that govern employer-employee relationships to novel employment situations. For example, do workers’ compensation laws apply when a worker is injured while working at home? If so, are there limitations on when these laws apply?
Recently, the Florida District Court of Appeals for the First District addressed the application of workers’ compensation laws to at home injuries in the case of Sedgwick CMS v. Valcourt-Williams.
What Happened in Sedgwick CMS v. Valcourt-Williams?
In this case, the plaintiff worked from home as a workers’ compensation claims adjuster for the defendant’s Lake Mary, Florida office. (The facts stated that the plaintiff was assigned to the Lake Mary office but actually worked from her home in Arizona). One morning during work, on the way to get a cappuccino in her home, the plaintiff fell over her dog and hurt her knee, hip, and shoulders.
The plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim was denied by the employer, but the Judge of Compensation Claims determined that the claims were improperly denied. The employer appealed.
What Did the Appellate Court Decide?
The Florida District Court of Appeals disagreed with the Judge of Compensation Claims and decided that the workers’ compensation laws did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims.
The part of Florida’s workers’ compensation law that describes when employers must provide compensation benefits for injured workers specifically applies to accidents that arise out of work that is performed in the course and scope of the worker’s employment. In this case, the court decided that when the fall that led to the injuries occurred, the plaintiff was not acting in the course and scope of her employment. The court explained it this way: the risk that the plaintiff might trip over her dog when she went to get the cappuccino existed whether or not the plaintiff was at work. Since the risk did not arise out of her employment, the resulting injuries were not of the type that could be compensated for by workers’ compensation. Put another way, the court explained that the important question is whether the employee’s worker environment, whether at home or in the office, exposes the employee to conditions that substantially contribute the injury risk.
If you are injured at work, whether working at home or in an office, whether you are able to claim workers’ compensation benefits will depend on the application of Florida’s workers’ compensation laws to the particular facts and circumstances of your claim. If you would like to discuss a potential claim, speak with an experienced Fort Pierce personal injury lawyer serving St. Lucie & Martin County at Sholtes Law, PLLC.