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New Law Limits Work-From-Home Injuries in Comp

  • State: Ohio
  • Topic: NORTH
  • - Popular with: Insurance

A first-of-its-kind law in Ohio gives employees who work from home parameters for what constitutes a work-related injury outside of the employer’s physical domain, an issue that has been raised in courtrooms across the country with varying results.

HB 447, crafted in response to the pandemic and passed earlier this year, goes into effect Sept. 23. It states that unless certain conditions are met, compensability is barred for “an injury or disability sustained by an employee who performs the employee’s duties in a work area that is located within the employee’s home and that is separate and distinct from the location of the employer.”

The law states that three factors must apply for an at-home injury to be compensable: that the injury or disability arose out of the worker’s employment; that it was caused by a special hazard of the employment activity; and that it was sustained in the course of an activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer.

Philip Fulton, a Columbus-based attorney who represents injured workers through the Philip J. Fulton Law Office, helped draft the law on behalf of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which advocated for it.

“The language only codifies what I had to prove previously for one of my clients who was injured while working from home,” he said. “I believe because of COVID and the new reality that many now work from home, the chamber wanted some assurance on the elements for a compensable injury if injured at home.”

In creating the bill, Ohio lawmakers looked at other states and cases in which work injuries occurred at home, finding that the laws and rulings varied: What was compensable in one state was found not compensable in another, according to Fulton. He said Ohio’s law makes compensable cases fact-specific — for example, a person tripping down the staircase at home en route to feeding the dog, versus a person tripping while trying to retrieve something work-related.

Timothy Zix, a partner and chair of the workers’ compensation practice group at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cincinnati, said the Ohio law is “good news” for employers. While there has not been much case law in Ohio stemming from employees injured while working from home, a scan of cases nationwide shows that incidents do occur, and the claims are often litigated.

Business Insurance is a sister publication of WorkCompCentral. More stories are here.

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