Working From Home May Mean Changes to Worker’s Compensation Insurance

By Litigation Practice Group

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life all over the world, many people are now working from home, and many employers have been forced into the difficult decision to temporarily close and/or furlough their workers. In Oregon, these consequences have triggered the need for guidance and clarification from the Department of Consumer and Business Services (“DCBS”) on employers’ and insurers’ obligations under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

On April 10, 2020, DCBS published two bulletins to guide employers and insurers navigating these changes, each effective immediately. The first informs employers that employees working remotely may be eligible for a different payroll classification code if the scope of their work has changed, but emphasizes that all such changes must be carefully documented for auditing purposes. Insurers must also rerate businesses if requested by the insurance policyholder to reflect any operational changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rerating could provide additional relief to businesses whose operations have been upended by the response to COVID-19. Finally, DCBS announced that insurers under certain circumstances will have been deemed to have met their regulatory field auditing requirement, allowing these insurers to fulfill their obligations despite the challenges presented by social distancing and Governor Brown’s shelter-in-place order.

 The second bulletin addresses questions about how to classify payments to certain employees during the pandemic. It directs employers who have elected to continue paying their furloughed employees to classify those payments as vacation time while clarifying that vacation time should not be used for sick leave or those working remotely. It further counsels employers to track furlough payroll “in sufficient detail” for insurers to properly audit premiums, and stresses that insurers must let employers know what information is required.

State agencies continue to issue guidance and directives to the industries they oversee to confront the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. It can be challenging to keep up with the flood of guidance. The attorneys at Saalfeld Griggs continue to monitor these developments for our clients and are available to answer additional questions about how these changes may affect you and your business.