Flexibility is critical to an organization’s success. This includes how and where employees work. After you’ve determined which roles are eligible for flexible work arrangements, consider the impact of federal, state, and local laws to protect your company against litigation or fines. We’ve put together a remote employee compliance checklist.
Wages and hours
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates that non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay at one-half times the regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 per workweek.
Therefore, non-exempt employees who are eligible for an alternate work structure must:
- Keep accurate accounting of time worked. There are many mobile attendance systems that allow remote employees to clock in/out electronically.
- Require written approval for overtime hours in your policies to mitigate unexpected overages.
- Understand how to track employee time if a power outage or technology failure occurs.
- Clearly communicate availability to co-workers, once their schedule is approved.
- Use authorized communications channels for their agreed upon purpose. For instance, slack for pressing, informal communications vs. email for longer communications.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects health information. Unfortunately, home networks and mobile devices are more vulnerable to attacks. It’s critical to remind employees they have an obligation to follow HIPAA guidelines and to protect your company’s intellectual property while working outside the office.
- Develop a data security policy that explains confidentiality best practices. Outline what can and cannot be done on a home computer, in public spaces, and on mobile devices. Require a signature acknowledging that company-related work may be monitored without notice to eliminate any legal expectation of privacy.
- With the WFH surge, enhance authentication procedures to verify employee identity before granting access to confidential information.
- Ensure a secure WiFi network and virtual private network (VPN) access is available to extend encrypted networks to employees’ homes
- Require employees to work with the internal IT team for technical issues and troubleshooting. While awaiting resolution, there should be a process for employees to follow.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal public health agency focused on protecting workers from risk. It responds to complaints about unsafe workplaces and fines employers accordingly. Whether on-site or remote, employers must ensure a workplace free from hazards.
- Establish guidelines and provide training for home office safety measures. Highlight how to prevent OSHA violations. When feasible, employees need to create a dedicated WFH space and inspect their area for hazards: tripping, fire, slip and proper ventilation.
- Employees must acknowledge receipt of workplace safety guidelines required
- Keep records of all work-related injuries as they are compensable under workers’ compensation even if the employee is working from home.
- Workers’ compensation laws vary by state. Therefore, discuss strategies with your workers’ compensation carrier to manage risks for any remote workers.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The EEOC enforces the ADA ensuring reasonable accommodations and workplace non-discrimination. Above all, you cannot discriminate based on race, national original, color, sex, religion, age (40 or over), disability or genetic information.
- Disabled employees may require a different accommodation if they’re now working from home during the pandemic. Telecommuting employees must receive the same wages, insurance and other fringe benefits as if they were on-site.
- Accommodations can be denied if it poses an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense) if there’s been a sudden loss of income during the pandemic.
- Set the tone that every employee is valued and it is against federal EEO laws to harass coworkers based on discrimination factors listed above. Managers should always stay vigilant against demeaning or derogatory remarks.
- Furloughs or layoffs must not be based on discrimination factors listed above.
Taxes and local labor laws
Remote work can have tax implications when employees live in a state other than where your company is located. This includes if they travel to a vacation home or to be with family in another state, which was common during the pandemic. It creates “physical nexus” which means the employer could be subject to the tax regimes of that jurisdiction.
- Each state has different tax obligations so it’s a good idea to research any reciprocity agreements to avoid double taxation.
- Labor and employment laws are different in every state as well. This could impact workers’ compensation requirements, unemployment insurance and more.