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Dog-Tripping At Home and Workers’ Compensation

Dog-Tripping At Home and Workers’ Compensation

The world of workers’ compensation (WC) is pretty cut-and-dry: you go to work, you get injured there, and you file a WC claim to reimburse you for medical expenses related to your injury. What if your “workplace” is your own home?

A growing number of American employees are remote workers. That means they work for a company from a different location. In theory, you could be employed by Company A but never set foot in Company A’s office building. Therefore, your “office” can be your front porch, a coffee shop, or a ferry boat. More and more employers care only that you get your work done, not where you do it.

In 2016, Tammith Valcourt-Williams was working from home when she decided to take a coffee break. As she reached for a mug in her kitchen, she tripped over her dog and suffered hip, shoulder, and knee injuries. Naturally, she filed a WC claim with her employer, and, naturally, the employer denied her claim.

Ms. Valcourt-Williams’s employer, Sedgwick CMS, said that her injuries did not arise from her employment but, rather, from her reaching for a cup of coffee in her home. The Judge of Compensation Claims sided with Ms. Valcourt-Williams, but his decision was overturned by an appeals court.

Dissenting from the appellate decision, however, Judge Ross Bilbrey expressed concern that the majority reversed established WC law precedent: “The fact that Valcourt-Williams’s home was also her workplace and her kitchen doubled as her workday breakroom should do nothing to alter our consideration of her claim.”