Are Work-At-Home Employees Entitled to Workers’ Compensation?

A New Jersey appellate court recently considered a very interesting case where the husband of a woman who died of a pulmonary embolism while working from home for AT&T was seeking workers’ compensation benefits related to her death. He alleged that her pulmonary embolism was caused by her sedentary work lifestyle. As an employee of AT&T, she had worked from home and spent most of her time working sitting in front of a computer screen.

In defense of the claim, her employer alleged that her work was no more a contributing factor than her less than active day-to-day lifestyle, along with her weight (300 lbs.) and the fact that she took birth control pills.

The court, however, disagreed, as explained in this NJ.com article:

The appellate court upheld a lower judge’s decision that Renner’s fatal condition, known as a pulmonary embolism, was caused by her work and that her husband, James, is entitled to benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation law…”Cathleen led a sedentary life in and out of work,” the court wrote in its ruling. But the evidence showed her work inactivity was greater than her non-work inactivity, the court said. Her husband, James, testified that his wife, who weighed more than 300 pounds, never sat around and “was always up and out.”

This is a significant holding in light of the increasing number of telecommuting employees. These employees, although working from home, are arguably “on the job” if injured while performing work-related tasks, just as employees injured while traveling for work-related purposes are “on the job.” Employees working from home should not be treated any differently and should be entitled to the same job-related benefits, such as workers’ compensation benefits, as those working on site.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and howard@ankinlaw.com.