Knowledge is Power: Know How Employment Law Affects Your Situation
Approximately 43 percent of U.S. employees work remotely at least some of the time—and that number is only expected to continue to increase, especially as the demand for freelancers and remote workers rises nationwide. While being able to work from home, or a coffee shop, or a hotel in another country certainly has its perks (like saving time on that morning commute and, of course, not having to don that formal office attire), remote workers should be diligent about staying on top of employment laws as they apply to those who work-from-home so they can avoid being taken advantage of. Ultimately you bear responsibility for yourself, your situation, and your income.
Employment Law Firms Can Help You
Employment law regarding remote work is complex. And, unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation in the business world. Very few employers actually understand how different aspects of employment law extend to their remote workers.
At Feldman Legal Group, our Tampa employment lawyers are well-versed in this area of the law and how it may apply to you, whether you work from home full- or part-time. Are you concerned your employer isn’t treating you justly as a remote worker? Schedule a case assessment with one of our professionals today.
Employment Laws and Remote Positions Can Be Confusing
With more people working remotely today than ever before, concern regarding employment law is wise. By understanding the laws that apply to you as a remote worker, you can be sure that you are being treated appropriately.
Remote Workers Have Rights
As a work-from-home employee, general employment laws may apply to you. Among those things which you may be able to expect are:
- The right to receive an employee policy handbook
- The right to receive federal, state, and local employment law notices
- The right to rest and/or meal breaks
- Access to an effective time-tracking system
These are basic rights that can help guide your employment and allow you to work effectively. These general laws, combined with the more specific issues discussed below, are important to understand. If you believe that your rights are being violated, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer.
Which Law Applies with Remote Workers?
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Remote Workers
Did you know that as a work-from-home employee you may be entitled to compensation under workers’ compensation law? It’s no secret that when you’re injured on the job at your place of employment, you should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. What many workers don’t realize is that they may be legally entitled to these same benefits if they work remotely and are injured performing a work-related task—even if the injury occurs at home. Workers compensation law is confusing under the best of circumstances. And, as you might imagine, lines can become a little blurry here, which is why having an experienced employment attorney evaluate and assess your case is so important.
Remote Workers’ Pay and Expense Reimbursement
Compensation for all workers, those who work onsite and those who work remotely, is governed by both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida law. The rules align with employment classification. For example, those individuals who are identified as salaried and exempt should be paid their full salary when they work remotely.
There are a number of ways in which employment laws are violated every day because employers don’t understand how these laws should extend to work-from-home employees. One of the most common examples of this, that our legal team sees quite often, is in the area of expense reimbursement. If you work from home and have been required to pay for your own remote set-up (desk, computer, workspace, etc.), you may be entitled to reimbursement from your employer.
This is because employers, by federal law, are generally supposed to be responsible for expenses related to conducting business activities from home.
On the same note, if you work from home exclusively and are required to travel to your employer’s office for any reason (such as a meeting), you may also be entitled to compensation for your travel time to the office in addition to a per-mile fuel reimbursement.
Anti-Discrimination Laws Are Still Applicable
If you work remotely you are protected by the same anti-discrimination laws as those who work on-site. For example, if you have a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects your interests. Thus, if you require specialized equipment or technology in order to do your job appropriately, your employer would be responsible for ensuring you have it.
Also, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion must also be enforced. Just because individuals are not located on-site does not mean that discrimination does not happen. Remember, issues like sexual harassment can occur over conference calls and emails just as easily and as frequently as they can in person.
Adherence to Business Hours
One of the biggest complaints from those who work remotely is that their days never end. When you work on-site, and the workday is over, you turn off your computer, clean up your desk, gather your belongings, and head home for the evening where you can relax and decompress. Those who work remotely tend to never “shut down.” And quite often, their superiors contact them outside of general business hours. There is simply no respect for personal time.
Additionally, office workers generally get time for lunch or dinner, depending upon the hours they work. Just because you work remotely does not mean you should miss these benefits. You are entitled to the same “breaks” that you would have if you were working with your colleagues on-site.
Employees Have Responsibility Too
What Is a Legal Duty of an Employee Who Works Remotely?
Clearly, companies have specific laws to follow when it comes to employing remote employees. However, employment, in general, is a shared responsibility, and employees have specific duties as well.
As a remote employee, your responsibilities include:
- Health and Safety: You must adhere to the rules and regulations outlined by your employer. There is nobody looking over your shoulder, so compliance is truly on you. If there are work-related dangers in your location, it is also your responsibility to immediately notify your employer.
- Privacy: With so many people working remotely, privacy is a significant issue for companies today. As such, many have instituted requirements regarding web browsing and guidelines about public Wi-Fi. As an employee, you are required to abide by these rules.
- Reporting: When you are not on=site, time tracking can become an issue. While some companies have sophisticated tracking systems, others do not. In either case, it is your responsibility to accurately track and report the hours you work.
Can an Employer Dictate Where You Work Remotely?
Why You Don’t Have Complete Freedom in Choosing a Location
If you work remotely, it does seem as if you should be able to work from wherever you would like. After all, if you can do quality work, why should it matter? In fact, so many companies now have remote workers that states and countries are offering incentives for many to relocate. Unfortunately for many remote workers who would like to move, they cannot.
Employers can dictate the areas from which you can work.
Consider some of the reasons why where you work is important for the company that hired you.
- Insurance: Often, companies offer insurance-related benefits which, in many cases, are state-related. If you move and live in a state or country that is different from where the company operates and is licensed, they may not be able to offer these benefits. Additionally, work-related insurance like workers’ compensation and unemployment can be tied to state law and policies. It is simply too costly for companies to manage the administration and legal issues in certain locations where the number of employees working is relatively minimal.
- Taxation: Without a doubt, taxation is complex, especially when it comes to remote workers. Rules vary state to state and managing the compliance process both is costly and time-consuming.
- Schedules: Each company defines the hours of its workday and expects its employees to be available during that time. When employees want to work in states or countries in different time zones, operating efficiently can become difficult. Not only can scheduling meetings be challenging, but workflow can also be disrupted. We have to remember that nobody works in a vacuum and we all depend upon the output of others to do our jobs.
Moving to a new location without notifying your employer is a bad idea. It’s likely that your supervisor will eventually find out that you have relocated. If you work remotely, always discuss where you will be working with your employer.
Should You Consult With an Employment Attorney?
Always Protect Yourself and Your Livelihood
Employment laws are complex. It is no surprise you may have questions regarding your remote work situation. If you are in this position and are concerned that your rights are being violated by your employer, the best thing you can do for yourself is to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced employment attorney.
In the meantime, do your best to document the instances where you believe your employer is violating employment law. Keep careful notes including the date and time issues arise as well as details regarding each incident.
Feldman Legal Group is here to fight for your rights as a worker, so don’t hesitate to contact us at 877-946-8293 with any questions you may have or to request a case assessment. We represent workers in both Florida and Georgia and look forward to assisting you.