Remote work offers advantages such as continued employment and business operations during the ongoing health crisis and opportunities for workers who face great difficulties with commuting to a daily job. But remote and telework can complicate compliance with local wage and hour laws, leave ordinances and other employment law matters.
Federal and state leave requirements still govern workers who work outside the traditional workplace. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act contains federal paid leave provisions for certain situations concerning self-quarantining, care of family members and other conditions relating to medical conditions caused by the new virus. California, the District of Columbia and 12 other states require some form of paid sick leave.
These laws typically cover employees who are now working in a certain area including remote workers who permanently or temporarily work in states or cities different from where they previously commuted. For example, a person working from their home in California who used to work at the corporate headquarters in Arizona is governed by California’s wage laws.
Businesses with many hourly employees also need to follow state and local regulations on timekeeping such as tracking meal and rest breaks beyond the beginning and conclusion of each work period. Employers should also follow meal periods, split shift intervals and the total daily hours worked.
Tax and license issues
Employers must generally file corporate income tax returns or register in states where they have full-time employees working at their homes. Business must also review tax withholding requirements in states where their employees are performing remote work.
Employees may also need state-issued professional licenses to perform their jobs in the states where they engaged in telework or remote work. There may also be state laws on data privacy.
California requires business to reimburse employees for expenditures made for their work. The purchase of an office chair, laptop or other device needed to work from home, or the installation of an internet connection may qualify for reimbursement.
Workers who suffer a work-related injury while working at their home or a remote location may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Injuries can involve a work assignment or use of company-supplied equipment.
California requires posting of wage and hour and other employment requirements and there are penalties for noncompliance. Employers have addressed these requirements by issuing posters through email or an electric portal.
Employers can try to meet employment laws of various jurisdictions by conducting a regular survey seeking information about where their employees work. Employers should at least develop a process where employees disclose their work locations.
Attorneys can help assure that employers meet their legal requirements to their workers. They can represent employees in claims for wages and damages.