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Is Your Employer Fairly Compensating and Accommodating You While You Work from Home?

April 7, 2021

Working from home has been a fact of life for many of us over the last year, and even after the pandemic many employees may be allowed or required to perform some or all of their work from home. What are an employer’s obligations to employees who work from home, and what if anything has changed?

First, as with working from the office, employers must compensate all non-exempt employees for all their time worked, including hours that an employee is expected to be on duty and any time that the employee is permitted to work, whether or not required to do so. Employees should record all their time working, including responding to emails or phone calls after normal business hours, via whatever method their employer requires.

Employees who work from home may be asked to come into the office from time to time for meetings or other assignments. Although time spent commuting between home and office is not normally compensable, employees whose work location has been moved to their home may be entitled to compensation for their travel time to the office for meetings during the workday.

Non-exempt employees are entitled to their normal 30-minute meal and two 10-minute rest breaks when working from home. The rules are the same for meal and rest periods, regardless of working from home.

Employees are entitled to reimbursement of all expense incurred as result of performing their duties, which may increase in the event of working from home. For instance, if the employer does not provide a computer or printer to the employee to use while working from home and the employee is required to use their personal computer, printer, or internet connection, the employee is entitled to reasonable reimbursement apportioned to the work usage. The employee may need to purchase a webcam or zoom subscription, which should be reimbursed. Similarly, if the employee is required to use their cell phone for work, which would usually be the case in a work from home scenario, the employer must reimburse the employee for some reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills, even if the business useage has not increased the monthly cost.

Finally, to the extent an employee needs an accommodation because of the employee’s disability or the disability of a close family member, in order to work safely from home, the employer must engage in a good faith dialogue with the employee to discuss the need for reasonable accommodation, and must in most cases provide a reasonable accommodation, which could be a reduced or different work schedule, a different position, a leave of absence, or eliminating non-essential job functions.