These days, many office workers in the Milwaukee area (and all over the state) are rarely, if ever, going to the office. Working from home full-time required some adjustments, technology upgrades, and boundary-setting, but work from home is settling in as the unfortunate norm for many workers. (In-office collaboration, team building, and simple social connections have gone by the wayside).
One thing that has not changed about work at home is the risk of on-the-job injuries, now extended to any hazards or repetitive tasks at home. But if you are not working in the office anymore, can you still receive workers’ compensation for a work injury sustained on your sofa or at the kitchen table?
At home injuries can be work-related
While each situation involves a fact-specific inquiry, the default rule in Wisconsin favors compensability of at-home injuries when remote work is required, or employer authorized. Section 102.03(1)(c)4 allows for this compensability and extends the premises of the employer (for course and scope issues) to home premises by “includ[ing] the premises of any other person on whose premises the employee performs services.” In further assessing at-home injuries, the traditional criteria, as stated in a Wisconsin Supreme Court case (Black River Dairy Products) are: (1) the quantity and regularity of work performed at home; (2) the continuing presence of work equipment at home; and (3) the special circumstances of the particular employment that make it necessary and not merely convenient to work at home.
In situations where the employee works consistently from home or is directed by the employer to work remotely, the three factors generally are met, resulting in a situation where every risk of home becomes a risk of the workplace. The personal comfort doctrine also remains applicable for remote work, likely making injuries on steps, in bathrooms, or in kitchens compensable. Of course, with each case being fact-specific, carriers could question the authenticity of the often unwitnessed at-home injury or question certain circumstances unique to the home or injury.
Nothing is guaranteed in workers’ comp
This scenario would give you a strong case for workers’ compensation benefits. But no matter how much the evidence might be on your side, your employer and their workers’ comp insurance company will likely try to avoid paying you the full benefits you are entitled to under Wisconsin law. If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal.