Should workers’ comp fraud be a telecommuting worry?

The potential for workers’ compensation fraud and other dishonesty is greatly increased with telecommuting, but the risk may be mostly theoretical, according to an attorney experienced with workers’ comp and telecommuting issues.

The difficulty in monitoring employees at home makes it much easier for them to claim a work-related injury, explains Jeffrey M. Tanenbaum, JD, an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation with Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy, and Mathiason in San Francisco.

"The best advice is to keep your fingers crossed," he says. "There is a great ability to commit fraud in telecommuting, but in fact I have seen very little workers’ comp fraud related to home offices. Many employees working at home are so happy to be doing so that they, as a group, tend to file fewer claims."

The claims most likely to arise from telecommuting involve ergonomic issues, Tanenbaum says. Another issue of concern is workplace violence. Since the person’s home is the employee’s workplace, how can the employer protect against "workplace" violence, such as an abusive spouse?

"All of this is still an emerging area in workers’ comp law," Tanenbaum explains. "People are asking a lot of questions, but there are few answers. With some of these issues, we won’t have answers until some time passes and we get some experience with them."