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March 5, 2021 | Workers’ Compensation

NY Courts Rule that At-Home Workers Are Entitled to Workers’ Compensation

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Can You Receive Workers' Comp While Working from Home in New York?

Accidental injuries that occur while on-the-job or as a result of one's job are compensable through workers’ compensation. However, what happens if you get injured while working from home? Do the same standards apply as if they were in the office?

At Ajlouny Injury Law, we represent individuals who are injured on-the-job. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of people to work from home. Most people do not realize that if you are injured out of and in the course of employment, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of whether you were in the workplace or working from home. 

If you were injured while working in New York City, contact Ajlouny Injury Law for free legal advice about your rights to recovery.

Matter of Capraro v. Matrix Absence Management: Remote Worker Injured While Carrying Boxes

The company Matrix Absence Management hired Christopher Capraro to work from home as a claims examiner. They provided Mr. Capraro with computer equipment, but were unwilling to cover the cost of office furniture. In June 2016, Mr. Capraro was injured while carrying boxes of unassembled office furniture to his home office. 

After applying for workers’ compensation benefits, his claim was initially denied by a judge. The judge found that his injuries did not “arise out of and in the course of his employment.” The judge’s decision was affirmed on appeal by a workers’ compensation panel, with one member dissenting. A review by the full Workers’ Compensation Board upheld the judge’s decision stating that his injuries were not sufficiently work-related.

New York Appellate Court reversed and remanded the previous decision regarding Mr. Capraro's claim. Instead, the judge made clear that regular workers’ compensation standards should be applied to work-from-home employees.

According to the decision in Matter of Capraro v. Matrix Absence Management, 2020 NY Slip Op 06000 (3d Dept 2020), the Workers’ Compensation Board must determine whether or not the activity that caused the injury was “purely personal.”

When does an at-home injury qualify for workers' comp?

The Workers’ Compensation Board determined that a new, stricter standard should be applied to employees working from home. 

In order to be eligible for workers' compensation for an at-home injury, the accident must:

  • Occur during regular work hours; and 
  • Occur while the employee is actively engaged in work duties.

The appellate court determined that the Board was incorrect in applying a new standard to remote employees finding that the Board was “unsupported by precedent” and that the decision was “inconsistent with ‘the remedial nature of the Workers’ Compensation Law.’” 

Place of Employment

In determining whether a new standard should apply for remote workers, the court stated that a regular pattern of working from home renders an employee’s residence a “place of employment.” 

Therefore, traditional standards should be applied regardless of whether the employee is at a conventional workplace maintained by the employer or working from home at their residence. The court remanded the case to the Board to issue a decision consistent with the normal principles applied in workers’ compensation cases. 

“Purely Personal” or Work-Related Activity

Under long-standing workers’ compensation principles, an injury is not compensable if it occurred while the employee was engaged in a “purely personal” activity unrelated to work responsibilities. A purely personal activity is one that is not "reasonable and sufficiently work related under the circumstances."

In this instance, the court determined that moving boxes to assemble work furniture was sufficiently work-related, even if it ocurred during a lunch break.

Short Breaks 

The court also found that it would be incorrect to apply a standard that did not allow for compensation when employees are injured on short breaks such as coffee breaks or bathroom breaks. A short break is defined as a “momentary deviation from the work routine for a customary and accepted purpose.”

Injuries that occur during a “short break” have long been considered insufficient to bar an employee from recovery under workers’ compensation law, since they are closely related to the performance of the job and do not constitute a sufficient interruption in employment.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for At-Home Employees

In the long run, the appellate court decision was a win for employees injured on-the-job while working from home. By remanding the case back to the Board, the court held that there should not be a separate standard for remote employees. The fact that an employee does not go to a traditional workplace maintained by an employer does not bar them from recovery.

How COVID-19 Changed the American Workforce

COVID-19 forever changed the landscape of the American workforce. Non-essential businesses had to adapt to government shutdowns and stay-at-home orders quickly. In order to remain productive, many businesses opted to allow their employees to work from home. To the surprise of many, many companies remained profitable despite a shift to remote working. 

As the health crisis shows signs of retreating, CEOs across the country are now considering whether to allow employees to remain working from home. The New York appellate court decision helps to ensure that the remote workforce is not precluded from workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job.

 Workplace accidents can occur at any location, regardless of whether it is maintained by the employer. It is essential that American workers have the right to pursue compensation for these injuries if they occur.

Contact Ajlouny Injury Law for a Free Consultation

If you are injured while working from home, contact Ajlouny Injury Law today for a free consultation. Our lawyers have recovered millions for injury victims throughout New York City. Remote employees have the same rights to compensation as those that have been injured in a traditional office. 

Call (718) 233-3913 now if you were denied workers’ compensation benefits. If your case was rejected by another law firm, we might still be able to help. Get in touch today for a free second opinion. 

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