Among the many new “normals’ resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is the number of employees working remotely. But while the workplace dynamic may have changed, the workplace rules have not. In addition to dealing with the new complicated extra requirements and restrictions in place to protect all of us, employers must remember to comply with and stay abreast of all federal, state, and local employment laws.
For example, simply because an employee is working remotely does not mean his/her employer can avoid compliance with overtime laws or that employees need not keep track of their time performing work. Thus, both employers and employees must be careful to be sure that all time worked by employees is accounted for and paid for. Some system of verifying the time worked by employees should be in place so that each employee is paid consistent with the company’s verified records.
Employers with more than fifteen employees must remain aware of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and employees’ needs for reasonable accommodations, even though an employee may be working from home. Both employers and employees must keep in mind that the ADA requires the parties to go through an interactive process with each disabled employee. Thus, employers should consider making inquiries to their disabled workers about what accommodations, if any, are needed at home in order for them to work remotely and to perform their job satisfactorily and particularly its essential functions. Similarly, employers may not exclude an employee from the workplace simply because the employee has a medical condition which puts him/her at a higher risk for some severe illness due to COVID-19.
Moreover, workers’ compensation considerations do not begin and end at the front door of the workplace. An employee’s injury while working remotely can commonly implicate workers’ compensation coverage. It does not matter that an employer lacks control over the conditions of an employee’s home-based work environment. The issue is if the injury arises out of and in the course of the employee’s employment.
Even if employees are working remotely, workplace policies should be followed. Documentation can be crucial whenever workplace rules are enforced and whenever an employment-related lawsuit is filed. Accordingly, an employer needs to document and maintain the applicable information relating to promotions, raises, bonuses, and employment discipline. Workplace policies should also be reviewed in connection with those laws which have been passed since and in response to the pandemic. Among those laws is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which sets out various categories of leave for employees. One example under the FFCRA concerns leave for employees caring for a child whose school or childcare facility is closed due to the coronavirus.
Obviously, COVID-19 has added to the many challenges existing in the workplace. So it is important for employers and employees to adjust to the seemingly ever-changing work environment. If you have particular questions or concerns relating to the workplace you are in or which you are responsible for, Leonard, Sciolla, Leonard & Tinari, LLP has employment attorneys to assist you in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They can be contacted at (215) 567-1530 or (856) 273-6679 or through our website at www.leonardsciolla.com.