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Workplace Flexibility and How to “Make Thousands of Dollars Working From Home!”

Fri September 5, 2014 Publications

More and more businesses are offering family friendly policies that allow workplace flexibility including working from home. “Studies show that flexibility makes workers happier and helps companies lower turnover and raise productivity,” according to President Obama’s remarks this summer at the White House Summit on Working Families. This is true, Obama explained, because “[m]ost of our days consist of work, family, and not much else. And those two spheres are constantly interacting with each other. When we’re with our family, sometimes we’re thinking about work, and when we’re at work, we’re thinking about family.”

Work-at-home policies allow employees to better cope with the demands of parenting and care-taking. Many large companies recognize that family friendly policies build employee loyalty and help keep talented employees. Small businesses can also benefit. At my law firm, we have used our workplace flexibility policy to retain a top employee who left Gainesville and to allow other employees to work from home at times to care for children or aging parents.

In creating workplace flexibility, here are the top five legal considerations for employers.

  1. Wage and hour. For employees who are entitled to an hourly rate, the employer should establish a clear remote work policy that details timekeeping, which hours are mandatory, and that overtime requires prior written approval. Additionally, mandatory travel to and from the office may become compensable.
  2. Discrimination and reasonable accommodations. A work at home policy must be applied equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or other protected status. And, telecommuting can be a reasonable accommodation option for a disabled or pregnant employee.
  3. Confidentiality and security. To maintain control over information, the employee should sign a written non-disclosure agreement and use company issued computers and equipment at home.
  4. OSHA and workers compensation. While employers are not required to ensure that employees who work from home are working in an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliant environment, a safety inspection may prevent an injury during remote work which might be brought as a workers’ compensation claim.
  5. Applicable state laws. Generally, the laws of the state where the employee works from home apply. In other words, a Florida business that employs a single employee who works from home in Georgia may become subject to the employment laws in Georgia, too.