For about a century, Workers’ Compensation has been the law of the land. The intent behind this mandatory insurance was to afford protection to the worker, and was based on the premise that most Americans worked in factories, construction or some other blue collar profession. Safety programs were basic and lacked the sophistication we see today. Then, as now, employers were required to secure this coverage for all employees including those who worked in the office, where the chance for injury remained low.
Over the years however, claims for employees classified as office workers have been quite substantial. Injuries from slips and falls as well as carpal tunnel damage are common. Injuries sustained in an auto accident in the course of business can also be significant and would be compensable regardless of who is responsible, since Workers’ Compensation is considered “no-fault” insurance.
Over the past few years, with the emergence of the Virtual Office, many companies have several employees who work from home. Often, the tools these employees use are limited to their computer and basic home office equipment. For the Virtual Office business owner, workplace safety is rarely contemplated and many times, the procurement of Workers’ Compensation insurance is forgotten.
This problem is compounded when the virtual employee works from home in a state that is different from the “home office” of the business owner. Securing a Workers’ Compensation for the home office is not enough. Coverage must be secured for employees in each state where work is performed.
Failing to provide coverage can manifest itself in two ways. First, in all states (with a few rare exceptions), the fines for failing to provide coverage can be substantial. Second, absent Workers’ Compensation coverage, an injured employee maintains the right to sue his or her employer for any injuries sustained in the course of employment. Without proper coverage in place, the business owner is exposed for all damages, including what a jury might award for “pain and suffering” which would not be compensable in a valid Workers’ Compensation claim.
For all business owners, it is important to remember to secure Workers’ Compensation insurance in all states where employees work, before the work begins. Compliance with this important statute should never be overlooked. For an emerging business, failure to do so could be the difference between success and failure.