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Understanding Laws Related to Telework

Approximately eight million Americans work from home, with many more working part-time from home. Telework has many benefits to employers as applicants find it to be an attractive job perk, which means they are more likely to retain their most valuable employees by offering this flexibility. In this editorial, a Tampa wage and hour attorney will discuss laws related to telework. For any wage and hour or overtime pay issues, consult a Tampa overtime lawyer today.   

Telework Isn’t Required By Law

Telework is not a legally required program. For example, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is no requirement for employers to provide a telework program to employees. However, employers have the option to allow telework as a reasonable accommodation or they can offer an alternative. When a program does exist, the employer must be consistent and allow disabled employees that are eligible to participate. 

Here are some common company policies related to telework:

  1. Many businesses have eligibility requirements for telework. For example, after 90 days of employment, an employee can enjoy telework. 
  2. For employers that do not permit work from home, they may make an exception for a disabled employee that requires reasonable accommodations to perform their job. 
  3. Some companies allow telework for employees that can change their work location without impacting business needs.  

Related: An Overview of Wage and Hour

Requesting Telework

If an employee is disabled or experiencing a medical condition, this is how they can attain telework accommodations from you (the employer): 

  1. An employee can request telework to their employer and provide them with any medical information related to their request. They should also explain how their medical condition interferes with their ability to work in the office or workplace.
  2. The employee should then meet with their employer and discuss their medical condition or disability in more detail and their reason for needing telework. This includes discussing what limitations the workplace presents and how they can successfully perform their job remotely. 
  3. The employer may want more information related to the employee’s condition, which should be provided by the employee. The employer also has the right to offer other accommodations to the employee to help them meet their working hours obligations. 

Depending on the disability and the employee’s limitations in the workplace, the employer and employee should come to an agreement with regards to accomodations, including the possibility of telework.

Related: Learn About Travel Time Compensation

Factoring in Reasonable Accommodations

In order to determine if an employee qualifies for telework at companies that have a telework policy, the employer and employee should review the “essential job functions” for the employee. The essential job functions are the core work requirements for the employee. As long as the employee can perform the essential job functions from home, the employer should consider allowing an employee that qualifies for a disability to perform telework. 

Here are some relevant topics related to reasonable accommodations:  

  1. In some cases, an employer may eliminate minor job tasks to accommodate an employee’s need for telework. This is common if the tasks cannot be performed away from the workplace. 
  2. In some cases, an employer may reassign a minor task of the accommodated employee to another employee in the office. 
    • For example, an employee working from home may not be able to answer the phone in the office, so this task may be reassigned to another employee. However, the telework employee may be asked to take over another assignment, like responding to comments on the company’s social media page.  
  3. Some positions cannot qualify for remote work because core job functions need to be performed at the workplace or the employee needs to access certain resources in order to perform their work tasks. 
    • Service industry positions (server, host, cook, bartender) require employees to be located on the premises to perform their work tasks. Other jobs in industries like construction or manufacturing call for workers to utilize specific equipment that requires them to be present at the workplace.  

Determining Telework Qualifications

There are several other factors that can determine whether or not an employee can perform telework. For example, an employer has a right to determine if an employee’s position requires supervision, face-to-face interaction with clients, coordinating with coworkers, or the need to access relevant documents or resources on the premises. Naturally, any of these issues can factor into whether or not an employee can work from home or to what extent they can work from home.       

Here are a few other things that employers should consider: 

  1. As we discussed above, some tasks need to be performed at work; however, an employer should also consider what tasks can be performed outside the office.
    • For example, an employee may need to attend client meetings when necessary, but they may be able to do the rest of their job tasks from home. This means they could be scheduled to only be in the office during client meetings. 
  2. An employer should always consider providing an employee with temporary accommodations from home depending on the extent of their disability or condition. In other words, it’s best for an employee to have the option to work from home on an “as needed” basis, especially for ailing workers.  
  3. An employer can provide other accommodations instead of allowing the employee to work from home. Accommodations can greatly vary from changes to the workplace structurally (installing a ramp) or changes to their schedule or job tasks. 

The key element to any of these above examples is that an employer should provide some form of accommodation to employees that can perform their essential job tasks but need some assistance. Whether it’s permitting telework, adjusting a schedule, or providing other reasonable accommodations, an employee and employer should be able to work together towards a solution. If your workplace doesn’t provide reasonable accommodations, consult our Tampa wage and hour attorneys

If you would like to speak with our Tampa overtime lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.