11 Labor Laws That Still Apply When You’re Working From Home

Published on August 21, 2020

Remote work is becoming a new reality. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telework. Companies around the globe had to adapt to a digital office in order to minimize the negative economic consequences of coronavirus, but labor laws remain the same.

On the one hand, employers and employees are enjoying a home office. According to a Gallup poll, almost 60% of employees would like to keep working from home even after access to schools and business have been restored.  On the other hand, a rapid popularization of digital work implies new challenges for employers, including legal matters. 

Here are 11 things to notice regarding labor laws for remote employees:

1. Discrimination

Local, state, and federal labor laws against discrimination in employment remain in full effect for remote workers. It’s prohibited to have underpaid workers because of their age, sex, ethnicity, race, etc. 

An employer should ensure that all workers, including those who telework, aren’t subject to discrimination. Otherwise, he can face severe legal consequences. To make sure a company adheres to the law, you can contact a labor lawyer or find relevant information.

2. Timekeeping

Timekeeping is essential to determine the number of hours an employee actually works. This is especially vital for those who receive payment based on the amount of time worked. Work from home best practices involves turning to modern technologies. Companies install software on employees’ computers that track the amount of working time. The main challenge is that employees should switch the system on every time he begins to work.

3. Overtime Work

Overtime work laws remain relevant for those who commute to an office, as well as those who work remotely. An employee should implement policies for employees to record all the working hours. This way, he can monitor the overall working time per week and apply higher rates once the working time exceeds 40 hours per week.

4. Breaks

An employer must provide breaks for rest and food for remote employees. Otherwise, a worker must receive compensation (or payment) for the working time. An employer doesn’t have to pay for a meal break if:

  • An employee is relieved of all duties during the break.
  • The break lasts a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • An employee isn’t interrupted.

5. Confidential Information

Monitoring the usage of confidential information when employees work remotely is hard. Therefore, an employer has to work out specific policies to protect trade secrets and sensitive business information. 

For example, it’s vital to state what physical items are available to be taken outside the office. Employees should know the precautions regarding keeping the documents outside the office.

6. Compulsory Telework

An employer has the right to both encourage and require employees to telework. However, this must be done as prevention or infection-control strategy. The strategy should be based on timely data from public authorities regarding public health emergencies, pandemics, etc.

7. Salary or an Hourly Rate While Teleworking

According to pay cut laws, an employer has to pay workers only for the number of hours worked regarding the place of work (i.e., home or office) in case:

  • An employer doesn’t have a union contract;
  • An employer doesn’t have any other employment contracts;
  • Telework isn’t provided as a reasonable accommodation for an employee with disabilities.

8. Additional Costs Coverage

If an employee is covered by the FLSA, an employer may not require him/her to pay for business expenses in case it reduces the employee’s earnings below the required minimum wage or compensation. This applies in terms of a qualified employee with a disability.

9. OSHA’s Regulations and Standards for a Home-Office

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated in 2000 that it wouldn’t conduct inspections of home offices. Moreover, the agency doesn’t expect employers to do so. Therefore, the department doesn’t provide any regulations for home offices.

10. A Work-at-Home Policy

An organization should have a work from home policy that will cover all the main aspects. This includes working time regulations and its monitoring, hourly rate, working conditions, confidential information usage, and many more. 

11. Disability Considerations

An employer must provide disability-related accommodation for remote employees if they were subject to it while working in an office.

As you can see, remote work management is quite similar to a traditional in-office format. An employer is the one to ensure timekeeping and equality. However, he usually isn’t expected to monitor some aspects like the working environment strictly.

Yuriy Moshes is a Grit Daily contributor, an entrepreneur for more than a decade, and the CEO of the Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes.

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