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.