Peacock Tales • Spring 2021
Our Fall newsletter is focused on current legal tips and trends across several practice areas. We hope that this content will inform you and provide practical advice when considering your legal needs.
By: Rachel K. Lozosky
The novel coronavirus continues to re-shape our world in vast and varied ways. It is difficult to imagine a workplace that has not been impacted by the pandemic. When business closure orders were issued in 2020, an overwhelming number of workers experienced a sudden shift to total reliance on teleworking.
Despite its many challenges, this model also afforded numerous benefits to employers and employees. Elimination of the time spent commuting and chatting with co-workers led to some increases in productivity. Businesses concerned with good corporate citizenship recognized the positive impact on the environment yielded by less air pollution, while employees saved on gasoline expenses. Employers temporarily cut certain overhead costs when brick-and-mortar offices were shuttered. According to a survey reported in the June 2020 “AARP Bulletin,” 60% of U.S. workers would like to continue working remotely even after the pandemic no longer necessitates doing so.
Recent months have found some workers returning, at least part-time, to their traditional offices. Yet in light of lingering concerns surrounding the virus, as well as the numerous benefits of teleworking, the possibility that remote working will permanently change the office paradigm cannot be overlooked.
Is working from home here to stay? If so, what are the keys to ensuring productivity and avoiding legal and managerial pitfalls?
Employers whose operations are conducive to teleworking should prepare or revise a teleworking policy in the near future. It should state that the employer will either require or permit teleworking when the same is mandated or encouraged by the government or public health experts, or is otherwise necessary due to any other emergency.
The policy should also include general rules governing telework if the employer wants to make it available as a nonemergency option, including:
- a statement establishing that teleworking is not a right, but a privilege that can be revoked at any time
- the factors to be considered in deciding whether to allow a specific employee to telework, including job duties, past performance and discipline record
- the fact that teleworking will be allowed if it is determined to be a reasonable accommodation for a disability
Additional important rules governing telework in both emergency and non-emergency circumstances should also be set forth, including:
- the employer’s right to supervise employees while teleworking
- the specific schedule (if any) for working and taking breaks and expectations regarding attention to personal tasks such as childcare or homeschooling
- the extent to which the employer’s general workplace policies governing conduct, performance, discipline, etc. apply to teleworking, along with any exceptions
- the way in which employees (particularly those who are non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act) must record and report regular and overtime hours worked
- the employer’s and/or employee’s responsibilities for providing the technology to facilitate telework (laptop, tablet, internet connection, phone or fax line, etc.)
- the employee’s responsibility to keep the employer’s equipment safe and the extent of the employee’s liability for damage
- the employee’s obligation to ensure the security of all confidential work documents
Teleworking presents a host of opportunities and challenges. Careful planning, communication and cooperation can ensure success, both during the pandemic and on that long-awaited day when this challenging time is finally behind us.
For assistance in preparing a teleworking policy or managing telework as an employer or employee, please reach out to a Peacock Keller employment attorney.
Peacock Keller, LLP • 95 West Beau Street, Suite 600 • Washington PA 15301 • 724-222-4520