Legal Considerations For Work-From-Home Employees
When COVID-19 first hit, and shut down many businesses, many transitioned to having employees work from home. Some have now reverted back to in-person working, but many companies decided to stay with the work-from-home model. But in doing so, many businesses never gave any thought to new policies or procedures when dealing with employees who will be working from home.
It may be helpful for your company to have a work from home manual, or at least a set of policies and producers, for employees who work from home. Here are some general ideas that you may want to consider, when working from home.
Videoconferencing – Working from home means videoconferencing through Zoom or other sources. Sadly, this can open the door to sexual harassment claims. People may say things over a video conference that they wouldn’t say in person. Worse, they could put things on the screen (themselves included) that are not appropriate for the workplace, and which could be considered forms of harassment—or worse, sexual assault.
You should make sure your work from home policy addresses etiquette for working from home. This includes language, what is displayed in the backgrounds of people’s screens, and a dress code.
Hours – just because someone is at home, doesn’t mean they are always working. Workers have set hours, and you, as their employer, should live by and respect those hours. Employers often get in trouble because they end up expecting a work-from-home employee to be available 24/7 and on weekends. However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), this can get you in trouble.
If an employee is always “on call” to you, the worker could potentially always be “working” for the purposes of the FLSA, and thus, they would have a right to be paid for their time, and for overtime.
Hybrid Models – You should make sure that workers working from home have as many opportunities as those in office, if you have a mixed workforce. Although it isn’t your intent to discriminate, if work-from-home employees get less opportunity (for example, they are passed over for promotions, or aren’t privy to trainings sessions), you could end up with discrimination lawsuits).
Property – At work, everything on the work computer is yours as their employer. But at home, that becomes more difficult, because the computer the employees use may not be yours—it may be their personal computer.
You should have a policy specifically saying that the documents created on their home computer for work are yours, and that you reserve the right to monitor work communications or work-based accounts, even though workers are using their own computers.
Workers’ Compensation – Make sure to work with your workers’ compensation insurance carrier, so they know you have work from home employees. Your workers’ compensation insurer may also require you have defined, written policies, and set hours for work from home employees.
Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help crafting your business’ policies and procedures.