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Aug. 17—In a precedent-setting case involving the Brazil unit of Avon, Brazil's supreme labor court ruled recently that employees working at home who suffer accidents can claim to have suffered an injury on the job.
The case involved an Avon employee who fell at home and broke her foot. She was fired five months later and sued Avon, claiming that her accident should have been treated as work-related, which would have given her job security for a full year.
The company claimed the employee wasn't working at the time of the accident, but the court held that if she was in a home office environment, the accident must be considered work-related, and it ordered Avon to pay a full year's salary to the employee as well as damages of $10,000.
According to the court, article 19 of Brazil's social security law defines a job accident as one related to an employee's work responsibilities that causes a temporary reduction in the employee's ability to perform work. Where the accident occurs is not a factor as long as these two criteria are met.
“In this case, it is perfectly possible to recognize the home as a workplace since it is there that [the employee] performed functions related to her employment,” the court held.
According to Justice Delaide Miranda Arantes, companies in Brazil are increasingly allowing employees to work at home, and these employees must receive the same protections granted to those working within company facilities.
“The jurisprudence has to be dynamic to cover these new realities,” Arantes said.
The employee's attorney, Armando Ferreira Rodrigues Filho of the law firm Rodrigues and Lobato Attorneys, said that the ruling constitutes “a wide-ranging precedent because of the uniqueness of the question.”
Because of the ruling, attorney Juliana Bracks Duarte of the firm Bracks Attorneys said, companies with employees working at home should set rules on the hours dedicated to work and the hours reserved for non-work activities. This could prove crucial in determining whether an accident occurred during working hours or was a home accident.
Avon issued a statement in which it said the court's ruling was “an isolated act, subject to appeal.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Taylor in Rio de Janeiro at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at email@example.com
For more information on Brazilian HR law and regulation, see the Brazil primer.
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