January 2023 - Are Remote Workers Covered for On-the-Job Injuries?
Just a few short years ago, working remotely was a concept available to a small segment of the workforce. Then the pandemic hit, and the concept gained more widespread acceptance by both employers and employees.
- About 26% of U.S. workforce was remote in 2022
- One in five New Jerseyans worked from home in 2021, ranking the State 8th in the country for the most remote workers.
Thanks to advances in communications and technology systems, this trend isn’t expected to reverse anytime soon. While both businesses and workers can acknowledge some advantages to this arrangement, remote work does raise questions about employee protections. One such question relates to Workers’ Compensation coverage; namely, can a remote employee file a claim for a work-related injury in New Jersey?
The short answer is yes, remote workers are entitled to the same protections as on-site employees. The question, however, is complex and presents certain challenges for the remote worker.
While New Jersey requires employers, with few exceptions, to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance for all employees, on-site and remote, the requirement does not pertain to independent contractors. Understanding the worker’s role within the company—employee or independent contractor—is the first challenge. To avoid companies misclassifying their workers to save money, New Jersey law states that a judge and not the employer determines this classification based on certain specified factors.
Another challenge for remote workers is proving their injury or illness is job-related without the benefit of witnesses. This is easier to prove if the company has clearly defined work hours or requires employees to log into certain company-sanctioned programs. The employee then needs to show that the injury occurred during these hours or while logged in. Sometimes, a simple job description is proof enough that the injury is work-related, especially concerning repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).
Whether working from home or on-site, if you are injured or fall ill on the job:
- Seek immediate medical attention.
- Report the incident—in writing—to your employer.
- Consult a Workers’ Comp lawyer to help you navigate the complexities of your situation.