Workers Comp and Working From Home

Question: Are individuals who primarily work from home eligible for workers' compensation if they are injured while working? 

Answer: Possibly, and most likely.
 
Workers' compensation benefits are intented to protect workers who are injured while performing their job function. For that reason, if you were working while you were injured – even if you were at home or on the road at the time – you are likely eligible for workers comp. If you can prove that your injury resulted from or occurred during a job task, you can file a workers' compensation claim.
 
One thing to keep in mind about workers' compensation claims – they can be tedious and can become ever more muddled if an employee is injured outside the corporate office environment. That is why it is important for telecommuters to clearly separate their time between work and leisure and keep good records of when they are working. It is also imperative for sales people and others who spend a majority of their time on the road. 
 
One recent workers compensation case in Texas involved a traveling salesperson named Liana Leordeanu who was in a serious car crash. "When she applied for workers' compensation insurance benefits for the accident, Leordeanu was denied — even though she was on company business, traveling in a company-provided car toward her company-furnished office," reports the Austin American-Statesman.
 
The reason for the denial was that the insurance company and an Austin court ruled that the trip was not 100% work related due to the fact that Ms. Leordeanu's return to her home office also meant she was returning home for the evening. The woman appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court and they ruled in Ms. Leordeanu's favor. It was determined that she was, in fact, eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
 
If you have sustained a work related injury, you should speak with a qualified workers compensation attorney – particularly if you have been injured while working from home or another off-site location. At The Law offices of Dworkin and Maciariello, our workers compensation lawyers have extensive knowledge of the Illinois workers compensation act and workers rights. Our experienced Illinois workers compensation lawyers fight diligently for your recovery to get the justice you deserve. 
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

The Cons of Telecommuting

Over the past decade, more and more companies have tried out telecommuting strategies in different capacities with varying degrees of success. A new report finds that telecommuting may be on the decline in the 2010's.

CNN Money is reporting that "it's true that telework reduces pollution, improves productivity, and cuts real estate costs for employers while increasing retention and employee loyalty. But no matter how advanced the technology, something is lost when face-to-face contact disappears. Indeed, a new report found that the number of teleworkers declined in 2010 for the first time since data collection began nearly a decade ago. While there's no denying that telecommuting can provide tremendous benefits, organizations are finding that virtual collaboration has its limits."
 
It is possible for telecommuters to feel disconnected from coworkers, especially if they work quite a distance away from one another. Why? Because they likely have never met their team members face to face; email and webcam introductions work for some but they are not a substitute for a real introduction and handshake. For this reason, it may take longer to build a working relationship and rapport with coworkers via Skype and email. 
 
Additionally, part of the working relationship is built around non-working activities: coffee, lunch or after work drinks with coworkers. Socializing with coworkers creates friendships out of work mates, which can reinforce a positive working relationship.
 
Experts say that it is possible to counteract this isolation by showing your face around the office from time to time, especially when a new employee joins the team. That way you can have a face to face meeting and reconnect with old coworkers. The frequency and feasibility of "popping by the office" is obviously dependent on what the distance is and your company's travel policies.
 
Whether you are working from home or in an office setting, you need to practice good health and work safety to avoid work injuries. For office workers, repetitive motion trauma like carpal tunnel is a risk that may be overlooked when working from home. Why? Because employers are likely to do ergonomic assessments and post health and safety standards to avoid employee work injury. Not so at home. 
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Disney Relaxes Dress Code at Workers’ Request

A new Walt Disney World policy, set to take effect February 3, will allow theme park workers to grow beards for the first time in the over 60 years the parks have been in business. It was reportedly at the request and urging of employees. 

 
"It is one of two notable changes Disney is making to "The Disney Look" — the clean-cut, all-American appearance that Disney has demanded of its theme-park employees from the day its original theme park, Disneyland, opened in 1955. The rigid code was instituted by Walt Disney himself, who wanted to distinguish his theme park from the sleazy carnivals of the time," reports the Chicago Tribune.
 
The other notable change is the addition of "casual Fridays" for employees who do not have interactions with theme park visitors. These two latest changes to the previously strict "Disney Look" follow lifting the ban on mustaches in 2000 and pantyhose for women wearing skirts two years ago. The latter is particularly considerate, as many of the women working at the theme parks in the summer were uncomfortable and overheated wearing pantyhose.

Dress Code Restrictions and Workers Rights

Asking an employee to adhere to a specific dress code is not a violation of workers rights, provided that the dress code is enforced company-wide. Red flags that your workers rights are possibly being violated are mostly raised when an individual is singled out – often it may signal harassment. 
 
For example, if the dress code does not have specific language regarding the fit of one's clothing but a manager is requesting that an employee wear more form fitting clothing, it may make the employee feel like they are being harassed and their workers rights are being violated.
 
As an employee, you should get it in writing any time you are informed you are in violation of the dress code. Additionally, if you feel that you are being targeted unfairly, or being harassed, you should contact an Illinois workers rights attorney right away.
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Cook County Morgue Under Investigation for Unsafe Conditions

The Chicago Tribune is reporting "The Illinois Department of Labor is investigating the Cook County morgue after the agency received an anonymous complaint about unsafe conditions, an official said today."

 
It appears from the complaint and also from photographs from the morgue that were leaked to the press that human remains were not being stored or cared for properly. 
 
The Illinois Department of Labor is responsible for investigating work conditions for the state's public employees; the agency has received five complaints about working conditions at the morgue since 2010.

Unsafe Work Conditions

No matter what your line of work, your employer is obligated to provide a safe working environment. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), 
 
"Workers are entitled to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm. To help assure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA also provides workers with the right to:
 
• Ask OSHA to inspect their workplace;
• Use their rights under the law without retaliation and discrimination;
• Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the • OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. The training must be in a language you can understand;
• Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace;
• Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses;
• Get copies of their medical records;"
 
If you are a worker and you believe your rights have been violated by your employer, you should contact a qualified Illinois workers compensation lawyer. There are attorneys with expertise in workers rights and workers compensation benefits who can help you understand your options. You are entitled to several rights under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act (or similar legislation in your area). We can work with you to understand these rights and help you file a claim if your rights have been violated or if your workers compensation benefits have been denied or delayed.
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

All Work and No Play? No Way.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Companies are trying to bring more play to the workday. Striving to make everyday business tasks more engaging, a growing number of firms, including International Business Machines Corp. and consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., are incorporating elements of videogames into the workplace.

 
They're deploying reward and competitive tactics commonly found in the gaming world to make tasks such as management training, data entry and brainstorming seem less like work. Employees receive points or badges for completing jobs or meeting time limits for assignments, for example. Companies also may use leaderboards, which let players view one another's scores, to encourage friendly competition and motivate performance, experts say."
 
Adding play into work is one more way that employers are trying to think "outside the box" to acheive employee productivity and motivation. With a younger, more dynamic workforce coming in to take the place of retiring baby boomers, companies have to get creative and go beyond traditional "perks." Other options cutting edge employers are offering include:
 
Travel Benefits: Many large national and multi national companies regularly allocate money toward corporate transportation and apartments. Now many are offering those same resources to employees during their off-time as well.
 
Flexible Schedule: Employers are starting to realize that as long as the work is getting done, they do not care where or when. As a result, telecommuting and flex-time are becoming more and more prevalent.
 
Free Lunch: Some large companies, inspired by employers always at the forefront of the "best of" lists, provide complimentary food and beverages for employees.
 
Fitness Benefits: Many companies have an on-site fitness center or offer employees a fitness benefit. The next logical step is to encourage employees to use the facilities by making it part of the corporate culture. The result will likely be healthier employees – upping productivity and decreasing incidence of work injury.
 
Getting Involved: An increasing number of employers are sponsoring community service days or encouraging some type of community outreach during work time. It is a great way for employees to connect with their community without sacrificing time or their paycheck – which might otherwise be prevent them from doing so. 
 
These are just a few examples of ways that employers can show their employees that they are valued and encourage them to take breaks and have fun to increase productivity. While not all of the above are a good fit in all industries, the basic principle is the same: happy employees often make the best (most productive) employees.
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

The Flip Side of Glass Office Space

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Amid a push toward openness in the workplace, more people are working in glass offices or conference rooms. Some 68% of U.S. offices have an "open plan" or "open seating" design, with the desks separated by low or no walls, according to a 2010 survey by the International Facilities Management Association, Houston. The remaining office and conference rooms are often walled in glass.

The benefits are undeniable, employers say—better communication and collaboration, lower real-estate and energy costs, more natural light and expansive outdoor views for all. Many employees say the light and openness improve their mood." 
 
In spite of these obvious benefits, there are some surprising downsides to open work spaces, as the WSJ article points out. Sometimes it can even cause work injury to unsuspecting employees. For example, 
 
Walk Carefully: Believe it or not, glass walls and doors are a physical hazard, especially to a company's visitors or new employees. Why? Because they may walk right into a door or wall without realizing it is there. And while a serious work injury likely will not result from such a collision, it is certainly embarrassing. 
 
Acoustics: Many companies with glass offices and conference rooms were disappointed to find how much more easily sound travels through glass than solid doors or walls. Some have opted to use white noise machines to drown out noise and protect confidentiality for employees. 
 
Privacy: Sensitive subjects – of both a personal and professional nature – are bound to come up at work. When dealing with them, you likely do not want the audience that is provided by an open work space. Many companies with open floor plans do provide private areas or conference rooms for this purpose.
 
Even in spite of the minor annoyances caused by open-concept work spaces, they are still favorably received for the most part. Both employers and employees feel that the openness of the work space promotes collaboration and creativity. If the nature of your business lends itself to this type of atmosphere, it can be an excellent choice.
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Study Says Working Moms Are Happier, Healthier

A recent study has found that working mothers – even mothers who work part-time – appear to be healthier and happier than stay-at-home moms. 

Yahoo Shine reports, "according to the study, 'Mothers' part-time employment: Associations with mother and family well-being' (which was published recently in the American Psychological Association's 'Journal of Family Psychology'), being employed has multiple benefits for moms — and for their families. After interviewing hundreds of mothers repeatedly over the course of a decade, the researchers found that those who worked 32 hours per week or less were more sensitive to their kids' needs, less likely to have symptoms of depression, and more likely to split household duties with their spouses than mothers who were not employed. And, the researchers found, even going to full-time status didn't adversely affect working moms' well-being." 
 
The findings of this study are particularly interesting – and encouraging – to moms who were unwilling or unable to stay home with their children full time. The decision whether to be a stay-at-home mom is not an easy one, but this study may help assuage mothers' guilt over going back to work. 
 
Additionally, as workplaces become increasingly flexible it is possible for moms to sometimes work from home – minimizing the time away from their families by eliminating costly and time consuming commutes. This may help improve mental and physical health, decreasing stress and subsequently incidence of work injury
 
Other ways of acheiving your work-life balance, decreasing stress and avoiding work injury include:
 
  • Ask for Help: It is called work-life balance for a reason; and it is not easy to acheive especially on your own. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help rebalancing – from your boss, coworkers, or spouse. Overwork can lead to fatigue, mistakes, and ultimately work injury.
  • Take Care of You: A healthy diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep are the best ways to avoid becoming tired, overworked and sustaining a subsequent work injury.
     
  • Give it a Rest: Take breaks as often as necessary. Additionally, switching between tasks on your to-do list can give your brain and body a rest, avoiding repetitive trauma or other work injury.
 
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.
 

Company Designs Office to Encourage Telecommuting

Headset manufacturer Plantronics believes that telecommuting is a great way to encourage flexibility and employee productivity. For this reason, their new office space is designed with the expectation that most employees, on most days, will be working from home. As a result, the office space does not actually have enough desks for each employee.

Fast Company reports,"Plantronics is hardly the first company to encourage its employees to telecommute, but it’s still rare to find an organization that’s so dedicated to the idea. It might be a little bit of an adjustment to people used to sitting at work all day every day, but the generation just coming out of school–the one that’s used to having instant access to people through cell phones, Skype, and email–expects nothing less. With gas prices steadily climbing, the prospect of working remotely three days a week seems especially attractive.

And Plantronics has no limits on how often employees work from home–it just asks that they make sure their home workplaces are ergonomically safe."

There is a growing trend toward telecommuting that is fueled by two major factors:

1. Commuting Costs: As gas and energy prices rise – and consumers become more aware of consuming energy as a result – physically commuting to work can become costly. So costly, in some situations, that employees consider taking jobs closer to home that pay less.

2. Employee Expectations: Younger generations are increasingly "plugged-in" and mobile. They know how to communicate from anywhere using multiple technological tools and programs – and they jump at the opportunity to do so.

Multiple studies show that in spite of concerns about employee productivity, workers feel empowered by the freedom to complete work tasks where and when they choose. By enabling them to work in a comfortable environment and time frame, employers are reaping the benefits of maximum productivity and at the same time eliminating costly overhead for maintaining physical office space for all employees.

One interesting topic of note about telecommuting that many employees overlook is the "ergonomically safe" piece. For this reason, workers who plan on working from home on a regular basis need to make sure they set up a home office or work space that accomplishes the following to guard against work injury:

- Chair that is adjustable to ensure that you are seated properly at the correct height and angle.
- Correct keyboard tools and placement to avoid possible carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Computer monitor screen positioned correctly at the proper height and distance to avoid eye strain.

DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Bradley S. Dworkin shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.