Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina.
Nebraska law is similar to the blog below. In Nebraska, it has never firmly been determined what kinds of accidents and injuries would be covered while working at home. However, the question of whether a “home-office injury” would be covered under workers’ compensation would almost certainly come down to the extent that the activity leading to the accident or injury “arises out of” and is “in the course of” the employee’s employment.
The answer to this question would be heavily dependent on the facts of the case. With that said, the more that an activity is directly related to the benefit of the employer, the greater the chance of recovery. In addition, other states have found home-office injuries covered in situations where the work was something directed by the employer or the work was furthering an employer’s business. The blog below should also give some guidance as to how a home-office injury would be handled in Nebraska. Please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with questions about your or a loved one’s specific situation.
We’ve all seen the ads for “work from home” jobs (spoiler alert – many are scams). However, corporations like Apple, IBM, CVS, and many, many more are frequently advertising work-from-home or telecommuter jobs to employees thus providing a flexible work schedule. The question then arises – what happens if the telecommuting employee is injured at home? For example, what if the employee is injured during a personal coffee break? What if he slips on his driveway? Or, if she trips over her pet while walking to her van to get work supplies?
In deciding on whether an employee’s injury may be compensable, courts have generally considered (1) how regularly the employee works from home, (2) the presence of work equipment at home (e.g. work computer or corporate phone), and/or (3) other conditions particular to that employment that make it necessary for the employee to work from home. The courts specifically look to whether the employee is working from home for his or her convenience, or if it’s necessary from the employer’s standpoint that the employee work from home (e.g. there is no other suitable place of employment offered by the employer).
For example, in Utah, the Court of Appeals held that a sales manager who was spreading salt on his driveway in anticipation of an important business delivery sustained a compensable slip and fall at work. The Court determined that the manager’s motivation in spreading the salt was to assist the employer’s business. [AE Clevite Inc. v. Labor Comm’n, 2000 UT App. 35, 996 P.2d 1072 (2000)]. Also, where a custom decorator for J.C. Penney was walking out to her van in her garage to get fabric samples and tripped over her dog, that injury was also compensable [Sandburg v. J.C. Penney Co, Inc., 260 P.3d 496 (2011)]. The Court explained that the home premises was also her work premises and the decorator had to keep samples in her van to show potential customers.
The bottom line is that when telecommuters are injured at home during the actual performance of their jobs, regardless of how insignificant, the injury may be compensable.