Over the course of two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes throughout almost every aspect of society. The pandemic has had an especially significant impact on the workforce and the manner in which work is performed. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. workers are working from home all or most of the time, with an additional 18% working from home some of the time. Comparatively, only 23% reported working from home frequently prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though these numbers represent a decline from the heights of the pandemic, the number of workers choosing to work remotely, as opposed to their workplace being closed or unavailable, has nearly doubled.
The shift to remote work has raised novel workers’ compensation questions. On June 24, 2022, in an attempt to answer some of these questions, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 447 (“H.B. 447”). H.B. 447 amends Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C), which provides the definition of “injury” and what an “injury” does not include. The newly added 4123.01(C)(4) states that an “injury” does not include an injury or disability sustained by an employee who is performing their job duties in a work area inside their home that is separate and distinct from the location of the employer, unless all of the following apply:
- The employee's injury or disability arises out of the employee's employment.
- The employee's injury or disability was caused by a special hazard of the employee's employment activity.
- The employee's injury or disability is sustained in the course of an activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer.
Prior to the enactment of H.B. 447, injuries that occurred while performing remote work would be analyzed in a similar manner as those that occurred at the workplace, whether the injury occurred in the course of, and arising out of one’s employment.
H.B. 447 appears to place additional burdens on injured workers who allege an injury while performing remote work. As with every workers’ compensation claim, these claims will be very fact-driven, so it is essential that the facts of each case are investigated thoroughly to determine whether the essential elements have been met. Knowledgeable workers’ compensation counsel can advise you on crafting work-at-home agreements, as well as the actions to take, and the questions to ask, to ensure proper investigation and defense of the claims that do arise.
Please contact the author or a member of Taft's Workers' Compensation practice with any questions.