Telecommuting and Working From Home
In both New York and New Jersey, telecommuting is becoming increasingly common in the workforce. Whether it is because of health and safety concerns, or because the employee is a working parent, lives at a great distance from the office or has a disability that limits his or her ability to travel, working from home appears to be here to stay.Benefits to Employers and Employees
There are many potential benefits for both employers and employees when telecommuting is permitted. It reduces the employee’s commuting time and costs, which can increase the number of hours the employee is available to work while allowing the employee to have a better work/life balance. Likewise, it can reduce the employee’s stress and anxiety, and thereby improve productivity. It also can reduce the company’s overhead by limiting its need for office space and equipment.
Furthermore, permitting employees to work from home increases the number of available job candidates. For instance, working mothers and fathers who need to be home at a particular time to drop off or pick their children up at school are more likely to be able to work for a company that permits them to work from home. Similarly, companies that permit telecommuting can hire employees who live far from their offices who are unwilling or unable to relocate.
Of course, there are drawbacks to employees working from home, such as making it more difficult to supervise, train and collaborate with them. Obviously, some jobs such as outside sales and customer service positions might lend themselves to working from remote locations, while other jobs like shift supervisor, food server and store clerk typically cannot be performed remotely.Employment Law Issues Relating to Working From Home
There are many important employment law issues relating to working from home. For example, although employers ordinarily are not required to permit their employees to work from home, under certain circumstances they might be required to permit an employee to work from home as a reasonable accommodation for a disability, due to pregnancy, or for a religious belief.
For instance, depending on the circumstance an employer might be required to permit an employee with a foot or leg injury who temporarily is unable to travel to the office to telecommute if he can perform the essential functions of his job from home. Similarly, an employer might be required to permit an employee to work from home to accommodate a religious holiday, observance or Sabbath.Discrimination
Employers that offer some employees the option of working from home have to be careful not to engage in unlawful discrimination. For example, it probably would be gender discrimination if a company permitted mothers to telecommute but did not offer the same option to fathers. Likewise, a company cannot use age, race, sexual orientation or another legally-protected category as a factor in deciding which employees it permits to work from home.
Another legal issue can arise for employees who work for a company in a state where the company does not have a physical office. Which state’s law applies to that employee – the law of the state where they live or the state in which the company is located -- is highly dependent on the circumstances and can vary depending on the state in which a legal claim has been filed. Some of the relevant factors may include where you physically work, where the decision-makers are located, where the relevant events occurred (such as where you were wrongfully discharged or harassed), and which state’s public policy interests are most implicated.
For additional information on this topic, please read one of the following articles from our blog:
- Court Rules New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Does Not Apply to New Jersey Resident Who Worked in Pennsylvania
- Court Clarifies When Non-Residents Are Protected Under New York's Anti-Discrimination Laws
For more information about your rights relating to working from home, or to schedule a consultation regarding another one of your employment law rights in New Jersey or New York, please feel free to contact us online or call us at (973) 744-4000.