According to a Clutch report, 66% of US employees surveyed were working from home during the pandemic. The rise of remote working is a necessity of the time, but it has many businesses considering working remotely as an ongoing option for their business. With so many businesses new to the concept, many executives don’t fully understand their full legal obligations and responsibilities. Before drafting a work from home policy, here are some legal issues to consider:
Health and Safety
Working from home is still work. In fact, many courts consider home offices an extension of the workplace. That means that even though your employee is not on your property, an employee could still claim workers’ compensation or even file a personal lawsuit if injured on the job. All the employee must prove is that the actions taken at the time of the injury benefited the company.
For example, if someone is pacing around their home on a conference call, trips and sprains their ankle, they have a case for worker’s compensation due to the fact that they were benefiting the company during the time of the injury. Depending on the type of business, the risks can vary, but it is important to set clear guidelines for the duties and work hours relating to the position. It would also be prudent to make your insurance company aware that you are using remote working in your day to day operations.
Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA was enacted to protect employees from unfair wage and hiring practices. When working remotely, it can be difficult to track the accurate number of hours worked. Salaried employees are not as problematic, but if you pay workers by the hour, FLSA violations can happen easily and often.
If it is communicated by their manager that an hourly employee is not to exceed 40 hours in a work week, you will still have to pay them overtime if they work more. Schedule beginning and end of day meetings to set clear work boundaries. If they are using a company computer, you can use software and set protocols in place to assure that the employee is staying within their 40 hour work week.
Issues of discrimination should never be taken lightly. However, it can become much more difficult to enforce these types of actions when working remotely. Not only do you need to make sure that communications are professional, but a remote worker can often be forgotten about compared to in-office workers. This could lead to greater advancement opportunities to those ‘in-office workers’ disenfranchising the remote workforce. It may not be on purpose, but setting that pattern could open your business up to discrimination lawsuits. Be careful and thoughtful about how you draft a work from home policy to mitigate this type of action.
A Remote Workforce is Still a Workforce
One of the common threads between in-office and remote working environments is the responsibilities and protections that are associated with general employment. Making sure your employees are safe, productive and treated equally is still your responsibility.
Owning a business comes with many responsibilities. From company formation to business litigation, the experienced attorneys at Cipparone & Cipparone are here to assure that your business is safe from liability and set up for future profitability.
**This blog is for general informational purposes only. Cipparone & Cipparone, P.A. does not distribute legal advice through this blog. As such, this blog does not constitute legal or other professional advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the reader and Cipparone & Cipparone, P.A.