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Work from Home Brings New Potential Legal Trouble

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Working from home may be a dream for some employees. No more commuting through rush hour traffic, changing into office-appropriate attire, or sacrificing time at home with one’s family. But, for an employer, having employees work from home can pose a real challenge when dealing with employment law. Wage and hour regulation, appropriate accommodations for those who need them, and more. Additionally, the human resources department needs to foster a fun and collaborative environment while balancing these legal matters. Although this new home environment can pose problems to an employer, there are many ways to satisfy these problems.

Payroll 

The first real challenge employers faced is monitoring payroll for every employee. If they have remote workers in multiple states, there is a good chance that there are differences in how each employee is paid. The following information is what every employer should be aware of regarding their employee’s wages:

  • Minimum wage in the employee’s state, county or city
  • Information that needs to appear on paystubs
  • Payday frequency requirements
  • Paycheck delivery requirements
  • Payroll deduction requirements
  • Payroll tax calculation

One of the most important factors is keeping track of hours worked for non-exempt employees. Non-exempt employees generally must be paid overtime, or one and a half times their hourly wage, upon exceeding 40 hours worked in a week. There are several different techniques used for tracking hours, varying from a digital clock-in system to traditional handwritten entries. Whichever way an employee inputs their time, it is imperative they understand how “hours worked” is defined so that they do not get overpaid or underpaid for their time. Most employees’ hours of work are 9-5, so working outside of that timeframe should typically involve clocking extra hours. Responding to emails, speaking with a client, or other similar activities are all examples of what time should be tracked and paid for, even if those activities take place after hours.

Health and Safety 

Even though remote workers are not physically present at their company, employers must still seek to ensure the wellbeing of their remote employees and comply with federal and state health and safety regulations. Employers should review common hazards found in remote work with their employees and implement a system for reporting and investigating injuries and illnesses that occur on the job. While employees are ultimately responsible for taking care of their own health and safety, employers can provide the following to help ensure safety:

  • Provide worker support systems
  • Provide health and safety training to remote employees
  • If necessary, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Employers need to establish clear guidelines for their employees about their remote workspaces, including workstation set-up and regular work hours so that it can be clear whether an injury occurred during work or not. Employers should also understand how workers compensation varies in each state and discuss with their carriers.

Equal Employment 

Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employees whose disabilities require accommodation must have those needs met in the workplace. Remote work does not change this policy, and employers must provide the same or equivalent accommodations for home offices as well. The accommodation will realistically be easier to meet at a remote workspace, but, all the same, the employer needs to communicate with their employees to find the best ways to provide assistance so that they can perform their job functions successfully.

Remote work has caused quite a stir regarding employment law. There are new hoops to jump through just to make sure an employer’s business operates normally. Extra steps need to be taken to ensure employees are happy, healthy, and paid fairly. But, with the added effort comes better results as working from home keeps employees more productive and less stressed. The change to remote work may seem daunting at first, but the benefits far outweigh the detriments in the end.