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California court ruling could affect remote workers’ comp claims

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2022 | Workers Rights

Working at home became the norm for many Californians over the past couple of years. Some companies are allowing people to continue to work at home if they choose.

This trend has led to the question of when an employee is eligible for workers’ comp if they suffer an injury while they’re working. Some companies have put guidelines in place for employees so that they can better define and limit what a work-related injury is (and prevent unnecessary ones).

One tragic incident here in California led to a lawsuit by employees – and a ruling by an appeals court that could potentially be used in other cases. Some employees of a moving and storage company were having dinner at the home of a co-worker who was working remotely. That employee’s son shot several of them – one fatally.

The victims attempted to hold their employer liable, claiming that it had a responsibility to ensure their safety since the home was that employee’s workplace. The case made its way to an appeals court, which ruled that the company’s responsibilities didn’t extend to keeping employees safe in that home.

Court: Ruling for employees would have “sweeping consequences”

While this is certainly an unusual situation, the court said that a ruling for the employees would have had “sweeping consequences” for all employers. The ruling noted that “holding every employer absolutely liable for any injury suffered at home by working-from-home employees would be extremely onerous.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can never seek workers’ comp for an injury you suffer while you’re working at home. Courts have typically determined that if a person was engaged in their work or doing something for their employer while they were injured, the injury could be considered work-related.

The details of the injury, such as where you suffered it and what you were doing when you suffered it, will matter. Any guidelines by your employer will likely also be considered.

Certainly, an injury suffered while you were working (either in one incident or over time) is more likely to fall under workers’ comp eligibility than if you decided to take a break to go for a swim and slipped and fell near your pool or were changing a lightbulb in your bedroom during your lunch break and fell off a ladder. If you’re having trouble getting workers’ comp benefits that you believe are warranted, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.