Remote Workers and Workers’ Compensation Issues
It used to be that you drove or commuted into work five days a week. But now, 3.7 million employees work from home at least part time, according to a study by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. Working from home has been a striking trend in the last decade, with the number of employees regularly taking advantage of Internet-based options growing 103 percent since 2005. While some people work remotely a few days each week, others work solely out of a home office. These employees, despite being at home more, are still at risk for work-related injuries. It is possible – and not uncommon – for remote employees to suffer injuries within the scope of their employment. If you are a telecommuter and you have been hurt because of your job, you may still have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. Do not let your unique working arrangement make you think you do not have benefits. Call the experienced Charlotte NC workers compensation attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. right away to learn about your rights and the best way to handle the situation.
Who Is Covered by North Carolina Workers’ Compensation?
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act states any business that employs at least three workers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This rule has very few exceptions, so if you work for a business that has two other employees, you should be covered. A sole proprietor, the members of an LLC, or partners do not automatically count as employees of a business, but they may be employees if they work for the business in addition to their positions as owners.
Workers’ compensation insurance benefits are clearly based on the employer-employee relationship. As one of at least three employees of a company, you are protected if you are hurt during the scope of your employment. This is still true for workers who do not commute to an office or head to a job site every day. Many employees in the U.S. work entirely or predominantly from home. Their home offices may not even be in the same state as their employers. This does not make them any less covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, other questions arise when a telecommuter files a workers’ compensation claim.
Telecommuters: Employees or Independent Contractors?
The main question that comes up when a telecommuter is hurt during the scope of his or her employment is whether that telecommuter is actually an employee or independent contractor. While an employee is covered by workers’ compensation, an independent contractor is generally not covered by workers’ compensation insurance or any other of the company’s benefits. Businesses do not have to cover independent contractors because it is a different type of business relationship than an employer-employee. Companies hire independent contractors to perform a certain task, and the contractor determines how that task is handled and finished. He or she generally provides all of the equipment or tools necessary for the task and has his or her own work space.
It is easy to see how a telecommuter could be an independent contractor, taking on assignments and controlling his or her own work, and therefore not covered by workers’ compensation. However, just because someone works remotely, does not automatically make him or her an independent contractor. Millions of employees, whose tasks, timelines, equipment, and budgets are controlled by the business, work from home.
When telecommuters are hurt and they know they have workers’ compensation, they can file a claim right away. However, when someone who has been labeled an independent contractor is hurt, he or she may need to look into whether he or she has been mislabeled and should be covered under a workers’ compensation policy.
Have You Been Mislabeled?
North Carolina law states that businesses are not relieved from the duty to provide workers’ compensation insurance benefits merely by calling their workers independent contractors. The North Carolina Industrial Commission will review the relationship between the business and worker, and it may find that even someone labeled an independent contractor was actually an employee. It does not matter if the business and worker have a contract that calls him or her an independent contractor. The actual relationship between the two will determine the employer’s liability and the worker’s protection.
Proving Your Injury Occurred During Work
A second major question that arises when a remote worker is hurt is whether the injury actually took place within the scope of employment. For workers’ compensation insurance benefits to kick in, the harm must arise from the job duties. There may be a sudden accident or it may be an injury that manifested itself overtime, such as Carpal Tunnel syndrome. Either way, it must have occurred during work hours and from an activity related to the job.
Remote workers may have a difficult time proving an injury was a result of the job because there is less evidence. An accident at a business or job site may have witnesses or be caught on security footage. Many telecommuters are home alone while they work, so there is no one to corroborate a sudden injury.
However, that does not mean a telecommuter cannot file a claim and receive benefits. It merely means that a telecommuter may need to work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure he or she provides the necessary proof to the employer or Industrial Commission.
Call a Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
If you are a remote worker, you face certain distinct challenges when filing a workers’ compensation claim. You may have to fight to prove you are an employee who should be covered by the insurance. You may have to worker harder than on-site employees to show the injury occurred during work and from the work you were required to perform. If you work in another state than your employer and the state that controls the workers’ compensation benefits, you may need a skilled Charlotte NC wok injury claim representative in your employer’s state. While it may look like a tough road ahead, the skilled attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. understand the unique help you need and will fiercely represent your claim and your rights.