Navigating Remote Work Policies: Legal Considerations for Employers and Employees

Following changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become a permanent fixture in many workplaces. This shift has transformed the way people work and raised many questions for both employers and employees, including questions surrounding employee expectations and legal compliance. It’s important for employers to understand the importance of instating policies that clearly communicate employee expectations, and for employees to understand what their rights are as remote workers. Our attorneys have information to help.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers need to establish clear and comprehensive remote work policies to cover themselves legally as expectations are being communicated to employees. Key areas to consider include:

  1. Work Hours and Availability: Be sure to define the expected work hours for remote employees and establish protocols for availability during those hours. Policies should outline expectations regarding response times to emails and approved communication channels for work-related discussions.
  2. Data Security and Confidentiality: Policies should describe the measures being taken to safeguard sensitive company information and client data. This includes guidelines on secure networks, password protection, and encryption protocols for remote access to company systems.
  3. Equipment and Expenses: It’s important for the employer to specify who is responsible for providing equipment like laptops, monitors, and software licenses for remote work in their remote work policies. The employer policy should also address reimbursement policies for expenses related to internet connectivity, utilities, and other remote work-related costs.
  4. Performance Monitoring and Evaluation: Employers should also outline how performance is being evaluated for remote employees. This means creating clear metrics for communicating feedback on performance.
  5. Health and Safety: Don’t forget to factor in health and safety implications for remote workers. Employers should work with remote employees to ensure that at-home workspaces are conducive to productivity and employee wellness.

Legal Protections for Employees

Employees working remotely are entitled to the same legal rights and protections as employees that work on-site. Some of these protections include:

  1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Compliance: Remote employees should receive minimum wage and overtime pay in accordance with the FLSA (see our previous blog post). Employees and employers need to work together to accurately track hours worked, including time spent on tasks outside of regular work hours, so that appropriate compensation can be provided.
  2. Discrimination and Harassment Policies: Remote work environments should be free of discrimination and harassment. Employers need to enforce anti-discrimination policies and provide avenues for remote employees to report instances of misconduct.
  3. Privacy Rights: Employees have a right to privacy when working remotely. Employers should clearly communicate data privacy policies and limit access to sensitive personal information.
  4. Reasonable Accommodations: Employers also need to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, whether they work on-site or remotely. This includes ensuring accessibility features for digital tools and platforms used for remote work.
  5. Whistleblower Protections: Employees who report unlawful or unethical conduct in a remote work setting are still protected by whistleblower laws. Employer policies need to have procedures in place for handling whistleblower complaints that come from remote workers.

Navigating the Future of Work

Collaboration between employers, HR professionals, and legal advisors is essential for developing and implementing effective remote work policies that comply with applicable laws and promote positive work culture. By creating remote work policies, employers help foster a supportive work environment where expectations are clearly communicated. This helps ensure that all parties involved have a fair and equitable experience.

We’re here to help you if you need legal support surrounding issues related to remote work. Reach out to us via phone or through our website and one of our attorneys will be in touch to schedule a consultation.