Recently, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 447, which clarifies that injuries sustained while an employee is working from home can be compensable, but only in certain situations. This new legislation becomes effective September 23, 2022.
HB 447 amends the section of the Ohio Revised Code that defines “injury” and identifies which injuries are compensable. R.C. 4123.01(C). Pursuant to revised R.C. 4123.01(C)(4), when an employee sustains an injury while working from home, the injury may be compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. However, the statute makes clear that such an injury is not compensable, unless three factors are met:
(1) The employee's injury or disability arises out of the employee's employment;
(2) The employee's injury or disability was caused by a special hazard of the employee's employment activity; and
(3) 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.
Thus, an injury sustained by an employee while they are working from home is not compensable, simply because it occurred during work hours or while the employee was completing a task for the employer. To be compensable, the injury must meet all three requirements
While the first and third factors are consistent with the traditional workers’ compensation compensability test, the second factor is different. Specifically, in a traditional claim, a fixed situs employee working at the employer’s location does not need to show the injury or disability arose out of a special hazard related to the employment. However, an employee injured while working at the fixed situs of their home must show there was a connection between the alleged injury and this special hazard of employment. Therefore, compensability for injuries sustained while working from home is not as broad as compensability for injuries sustained while working at the employer’s location.
Specifically, the employee must show the alleged injury is a result of a “special hazard”, which courts have defined as a “risk, either distinctive in nature or qualitatively greater than the risk common to the public.” These cases frequently look at the extent of the employer’s control over the physical location, the reason the employee was at the location, and the employment task the employee was completing at the time of the injury. Thus, courts have found an employee’s trip over a public curb, injury in a public parking lot, and fall on a public sidewalk were not special hazards of employment. These scenarios illustrate the General Assembly’s attempt to exclude from compensability accidents that would be common to the home environment.
This legislation is favorable to employers because it clarifies an injury sustained while working from home is not compensable, simply because the employee was on the clock or performing a job duty. This legislation applies to claims with a date of injury September 23, 2022 or later. Should you have any questions about this legislation, Ohio workers’ compensation scheme or employment practices in general, please contact one of the members of Reminger's Workers' Compensation or Employment Practices Liability Groups.
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