Advice for Employers with Employees Working at Home

Having employees work at home raises a number of issues for employers and employees.  Review your telecommuting policies currently in place to ensure they work for the current situation.  For instance, many companies generally do not permit non-exempt to work from home, so you may need to supplement.  If you do not have a written policy, draft one and disseminate to all employees.

If an employee refuses to work from home for a reason that is not protected by law (e.g., telecommuting does not work with their reasonable accommodation), then the employee can be furloughed or terminated, though the employer should consult with legal counsel.

In managing employees working remotely, you should keep in mind:

Time Keeping and Breaks

  • Non-exempt California employees should be reminded to take their rest and meal breaks. Employees should report their time on a daily basis (including clocking out for meal breaks) and confirm they took their breaks.
  • If a non-exempt California employee is unable to take a 30-minute, duty-free meal period or one of their rest breaks, you should automatically add an extra hour of pay to their next paycheck (that is the amount of the penalty required to be paid by California law).
  • Remind non-exempt employees to perform no over-time work without manager approval.
  • Consider setting “office” hours during which employees are generally expected to be working and available by email/phone/virtual meeting software.
  • Some employees may need to adjust their work hours to accommodate childcare needs during the COVID-19 crisis. Employees and employers may agree that work can be performed on a nontraditional and non-contiguous schedule, but this should be agreed to beforehand.  The employee is entitled to be paid for all hours reported as worked.  (See our posting regarding the new federal laws on childcare leave.)
  • Exempt California employees must be paid for the entire week, even if they work only part of the week.

Home Offices

  • Reimbursement of Expenses. Employees should be reimbursed for expenses associated with requirements for working from home, such as internet costs and phone.  These amounts are typically $50-$75/month.
  • Injuries/Workers’ Comp. Employees should be reminded to maintain a safe work area.  Injuries incurred while working at home and in conjunction with the employee’s duties, should be reported immediately as they are still subject to workers’ comp.
  • Confidential & Proprietary Information. Remind employees to protect confidential and proprietary information.  Such information should not be left in the open for others to see and IT procedures for securing electronic devices must be followed.