Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of companies were allowing team members to work from home. That trend gained additional momentum in 2020. A recent Gartner survey reports that over 80% of companies plan to allow part-time remote work after the pandemic, and 47% intend to allow full-time working from home. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, “People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t.”
For businesses setting up a work-from-home model for the first time, it’s essential to understand that remote team members are treated the same as on-site team members under federal, state, and local employment laws. Here are some tips for avoiding legal issues related to team members who are working from home, especially those classified as hourly or non-exempt.
Wages for Work-from-Home Jobs
Payment for work-from-home jobs falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to FLSA, salaried employees, also known as exempt, must be paid their full weekly salary if the business is open and they perform work. Even if only one hour of work was performed, a salaried exempt worker must be paid full salary for a week.
Hourly non-exempt workers must be paid minimum wage or higher for each hour worked. Payment is not required for hours not worked. The exception to this rule is for vacation time, sick time, and other pre-approved paid time off that some hourly workers may receive as a job benefit.
To ensure that each team member working from home is paid what they’re owed, businesses must have an accurate tool for recording working time. While this is less important for salaried team members, those who are paid on an hourly basis must be able to log start, stop and break times; they also must be able to record time spent on work outside regular working hours.
Accounting for Breaks and Overtime
Different states have different laws about mealtimes and rest breaks for hourly workers. However, the FLSA mandates that rest breaks shorter than 20 minutes be paid. Monitoring breaks for remote workers offers additional challenges compared to those working on-site. Establishing a policy for taking breaks and reporting break times while working at home can help avoid confusion.
Legal requirements for overtime pay also vary by state. In most cases, the employer must track overtime hours and pay the required wage. According to federal law, hourly employees may not ‘volunteer’ their services to their employer. Compensation must be received for all work performed outside working hours, including checking and responding to work emails.
Employers still must pay for all overtime worked, even if it wasn’t authorized. Having an overtime policy in place that requires management permission to work overtime is an excellent way to prevent the reporting of unauthorized overtime. When drafting such a policy, remember that state laws vary when it comes to determining when overtime pay is required. For example, Maryland requires overtime pay for more than 40 hours worked in a week, while California says employers must pay overtime for more than 8 hours worked in a day.
An employer’s work-from-home policy should consider accommodations for team members with disabilities. This might range from the need to take extra breaks to supplying ergonomic equipment. Team members who request to work from home due to a disability may qualify to do so under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). If allowing a team member to work remotely due to disability causes undue hardship, an employer may require an employee to provide proof of the claimed disability.
Need for Accurate Timekeeping
The FLSA requires businesses to keep records for hours worked by non-exempt employees. States may have additional record-keeping requirements, such as California’s law, that an employee receive a page stub showing hours worked each time they are paid. Many businesses use electronic timekeeping systems to record each team member’s hours worked to satisfy these laws. Ideally, remote workers can use the same tool as on-site workers to record working time. Having a timekeeping system that team members can access on their remote devices makes it easier to accurately track working time 24/7.
At coAmplifi, we understand how difficult time tracking can be. This is why we came up with a solution for everyone. Learn more about our wage an hour component here.