Employment environments have changed across the country due to the COVID-19 crisis. With these changes, employment law obligations have had to be adjusted. Situations are rapidly developing with the new responsibilities, so employers are advised to consult counsel if any serious situations arise from the remote work-at-home conditions.
These are a few of the questions being faced by employers as COVID-19 changes our lives and workplace practices.
How Much Do Employers Have to Pay Employees If They Work at Home?
If your employees are providing telework due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you must pay them the same hourly rate or salary. If you do not have a union contract or other employment contract, under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), you are generally required to pay your employees only for hours they actually work. These hours of work would be the same if done at home or in your employment workplace.
FLSA guidelines require employers to pay their workers who are non-exempt at least the minimum wage for their hours worked. You should also pay time and one half their regular rate of pay if they work more than forty hours in a workweek. If you have salaried, exempt employees, they should receive their full salary for the work they perform.
Can Software be Installed To Track Remote Worker’s Computers?
The United States does have privacy laws that will influence what, as an employer, you can track on your remote worker’s computers. Before you install tracking software on your employee’s computers, you should check your state’s privacy laws where you operate your business.
Your first step in setting up tracking systems is to get your employee’s written consent. This step could save you should any legal issues that could come up regarding the information you obtain through your tracking software. It will save both you and your employee in any grey, legal area.
As an employer, you are generally within your rights to monitor activity carried out on a company-owned device. If you are distributing laptops and phones for employees to work from home during COVID-19, you should be able to track them through an IP address or GPS.
If you are allowing personal devices to be used for remote work, you may want to use an appropriate Bring-Your-Own-Device policy. This policy means the devices being allowed to access your company’s servers, data, documents, and networks should have a mobile device management software installed. This software will enable your IT staff to monitor the information being sent to this device and will allow them to wipe it if necessary.
Can an Employer Lawfully Restrict an Employee from Traveling?
Employers cannot lawfully restrict an employee from traveling to an area that has reported a large community spread of the virus. There are many states which prohibit an employer from discriminating against their employees for any lawful, off-duty conduct that resulted in the travel to a location not prohibited under the law.
As an employer, you can require your employees to report where they plan to travel to and the dates they will be gone. You can also advise them there may be a quarantine applied to them before they can return to work. The quarantine would be based on the guidance of the CDC, WHO, and other health agencies. This guidance is that they remain at home for a period of fourteen days from the time they leave their travel area before returning to their workplace position.
While as an employer, you cannot restrict where your employees travel, you can deny time off for travel. Having to enforce a fourteen day quarantine may have a significant impact on your employee’s position and you can cite this as a reason for not being able to take the time needed for such travel. An employee not being able to return to work within a reasonable amount of time can be too much of an expense to your businesss.
With all the new changes being thrown at both you and your employees during this crisis, keep in mind the morale of your workers. Implementing new policies and technologies will not come without some risks. There is no clear precedent for these changes, and working together as a team is what is going to keep your business alive.