Workers who have embraced remote employment in South Carolina may wonder whether they are still protected by workers’ compensation if they are injured while working. The short answer is yes, an employee in a work-from-home or remote job is covered by workers’ compensation in South Carolina and, therefore, is eligible for the same benefits as those who still go in to the office each day.
Workers’ compensation pays medical bills and provides other benefits to employees who suffer injuries while on the job.
Some businesses may not realize that employees are still covered by workers’ compensation while working from home. They may even try to wrongfully deny your claim. However, according to South Carolina law, being injured while working is what matters, not where you are working. An employee who is injured while working in their home office or anywhere else is covered by workers’ compensation just as they would be in the corporate office, or on a client’s premises. Regardless, if you have suffered a work-related injury that puts you out of work for a week or longer, you are likely eligible for benefits.
For temporary disability, workers’ compensation pays all medical bills associated with the work-related injury or illness and two-thirds of your wages while out of work. Additional benefits are available for permanent injuries.
A workers’ compensation attorney with Joye Law Firm can help you understand your rights if your employer is disputing your request for workers’ comp benefits for a work-related injury. Contact Joye Law Firm for a free legal consultation about your rights to workers’ compensation. Call us now at 888-324-3100 or fill out this online form.
How To Know If an Injury Is Work-Related While Working from Home
The key to workers’ compensation eligibility is that you are employed, and your injury arises out of your employment and in the course of performing assigned job duties.
South Carolina courts have said an injury arises out of employment when there is “a causal connection between the employment and the injury” (Nicholson v. S.C. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 411 S.C. 381, 384, 769 S.E.2d 1, 3 (2015)). In this case, for example, an employee was hurt when she tripped and fell while walking to a work meeting. If not for the meeting required by her job, she would not have been in the hallway where she fell.
An injury occurs in the course of employment if it occurs “within the period of employment at a place where the employee reasonably may be in the performance of his [or her] duties and while fulfilling those duties” (Gibson v. Spartanburg Sch. Dist. No. 3, 338 S.C. 510, 517, 526 S.E.2d 725, 729 (Ct.App.2000)). In this case, a teacher was buying school supplies at a Walmart, indicating the court’s willingness to extend the place and period within which duties should be considered in the course of employment.
As for being at home when an accident happens, if an employer has agreed to a work-from-home arrangement, then the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and the courts will consider the employee’s home to be an extension of the workplace. The pro-employer Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises its members, that, “Courts have found that an employer’s lack of control over the conditions of an employee’s home-based work premises is irrelevant. When an employee’s home is also an employee’s work premises, it is often interpreted that the hazards an employee encounters when performing work at home are also hazards of his or her employment.”
Common Types of At-Home Work-Related Injuries
If you are engaged in a work duty when you are injured at home, you likely qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. This might include such accidents or injuries as:
- Tripping or slipping and falling while walking between your desk and the printer or to the door to accept or retrieve a work-related delivery.
- Dropping a work-related delivery on your foot and fracturing a bone.
- Cutting your finger or hand while performing garment work or other duties involving sharp instruments at home and suffering an infection.
- Suffering a burn from hot coffee or tea spilled as you answered a phone call from a supervisor or co-worker.
- Diminished vision from eyestrain due to continuous work in front of a computer screen in your home office.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome suffered due to continuous work on a computer keyboard in your home office.
Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Eligibility While Working from Home
Most full- or part-time employees qualify for workers’ compensation. This includes undocumented workers and minors, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed.
Sometimes an employer will try to avoid making workers’ compensation payments by claiming that a worker is an independent contractor and not actually employed by their company.
In South Carolina, the test for distinguishing employees from independent contractors is whether “the alleged employer has the right and authority to control and direct the particular work or undertaking, as to the manner or means of its accomplishment” (S.C. Workers’ Comp. Comm’n v. Ray Covington Realtors, Inc., 318 S.C. 546, 547 (1995)).
A worker may be considered an independent contractor if he or she has the right and authority to control and direct the hours they work and to work in a manner of their choosing without the direction or control of a supervisor. Conversely, someone who is on the clock and directed as to how they perform their duties is likely an employee. Further considerations are:
- Method of payment (taxes are withheld from an employee’s pay)
- Furnishing of equipment (independent contractors supply their own tools and equipment).
By law, employers are not required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for:
- Casual employees
- Licensed real estate agents
- Agricultural employees
- Workers at companies with an annual payroll of less than $3,000
- Federal employees who are covered by similar federal programs.
What To Do If You Get Hurt Working from Home
If you are hurt while working from home badly enough that you cannot perform your job, you need to notify your employer as soon as possible that you have been injured. You should follow up with a written account of what happened and include what work duties you were performing when you were injured. You become eligible for benefits after missing seven days of work due to a work-related injury or illness.
If your employer disputes your right to workers’ compensation benefits or refuses to report your accident, a workers’ compensation attorney at Joye Law Firm can submit a Form 50 to the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission on your behalf to initiate your claim.
If your employer has said you do not qualify for workers’ compensation, you should consult a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney at Joye Law Firm can review the facts and request a hearing, which is the first step in the process.
Get in Touch with Our South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Workers’ compensation claims brought by employees who are working from home can be more complicated than typical on-the-job injury claims. However, remote workers’ eligibility for benefits has become increasingly well-established since the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
If you have been injured while working from home in South Carolina and your workers’ comp claim is disputed in any manner, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation claims attorney with Joye Law Firm as soon as possible.
Call us at 888-324-3100 for a free review of your workers’ compensation claim, or contact us online. We have offices in North Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, Summerville, and Myrtle Beach and represent injured workers throughout South Carolina.