Support Work From Home Employees… Legally

Even as businesses begin to reopen, it seems that working from home is here to stay. This helps keep people safe, and it benefits both employees and businesses. However, any business allowing or encouraging employees to work from home needs to carefully consider the legal ramifications of doing so. There are a few legal areas where you should pay particular attention. 


Create a Policy

To help prevent any legal issues in the future, it is crucial to create an official work from home policy. It can be a standalone document and does not need to be formal, but it should be in writing. The policy should include what jobs are eligible to work from home and the expectations of those who do work from home. These expectations can include hours worked, deadlines, productivity standards, privacy and cybersecurity standards, and anything else relevant. 


By creating a written policy, you protect yourself from employees claiming unequal treatment. 


Follow Laws Regarding Pay

As work from home becomes more mainstream, don’t forget to consider any legal implications related to what your employees earn. The approach will likely be different for salaried and hourly employees. Salaried employees should legally receive their full salary. For hourly employees, you need to ensure you have a consistent and accurate method of tracking time that is fair to everyone. 


Another aspect of pay has to do with local payment laws. If your employees are allowed to permanently work from home and take the opportunity to move to another state, ensure you follow that state’s laws. 


Disability Considerations

Working from home opens up more possible applications of ADA accommodations. Start by ensuring that if you provide an employee with accommodations at work, they get the same accommodations at home.  For example, are they entitled to extra breaks?  If so, the same rules would apply at home.


When considering who is eligible to work from home, disabilities may also play a role. The ADA offers the work-from-home setup as possible accommodation for certain disabilities. A current example could be an immunocompromised employee who cannot safely be vaccinated. They should be allowed to continue to work from home to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19.


Whenever providing accommodations for disabilities, don’t ask employees for documentation or paperwork you are not entitled to see. You don’t want to be in violation of HIPAA laws. That said, you can ask for some sort of documentation, but just be careful to stay within the law.