Broker Check

Virtual Work Post-COVID

July 14, 2021
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While it may be premature to declare victory over the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have reopened their offices on a full time or hybrid basis. Since mandated closures have ended, this changes the legal implications for workers who prefer a "virtual" workplace, whether at home or anywhere outside the office.

Stephen B. Stern of the Kagan Stern law firm (https://www.kaganstern.com/attorneys/stephen-b-stern) has posted about potential legal ramifications of continued remote work. One is that remote work is not a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act if an employer determines presence in the workplace is an essential job function. Obviously this is fact specific. 

Another area of uncertainty identified by Stern is how employees working in multiple jurisdictions will be treated regarding compliance with state and local employment laws, especially under hybrid arrangements. If employees are paid on an hourly or weekly basis, there may be questions about employees who fail to put in a full day's work or work overtime without authorization. This could be alleviated if employers have a system for workers to clock in and out remotely.

In addition to consulting with legal counsel when dealing with these issues, employers should request and get feedback from employees on their policies. Stern cites a survey which found 58% of workers planned to look for a new job if they were not allowed to continue remote work. Another survey by Limeade Institute found only 55% of respondents felt their organizations cared about them. Employers should ask employees about their preferences and try to reach mutual agreement on return to workplace rules. Those who don't will get firsthand experience with "The Great Resignation".