General Thoughts on Remote Work

Rejecting all requests for remote work is the easiest legal solution.  But it might leave a company with few or no employees.  A less extreme concept would be limiting remote work to short periods not to exceed sixty or ninety days within a calendar year but this might not be feasible either in this employment environment.  Employers can permit employment anywhere in the United States for these shorter time periods only if they have employees who are willing to appreciate the burden of international legal compliance is too costly.

General suggestions concerning remote workplace policies and agreements are not Earth shattering: (1) employers must reserve the right to unilaterally revise  policies and agreements as necessitated by business considerations; (2) individual agreements with employees are preferable, particularly with employees with greater revenue generating or management responsibilities; (3) all processes and their application must rely upon legitimate business factors that are not applied in a discriminatory manner; and (4) willful ignorance of employees working elsewhere is as bad of any idea as it sounds.

Attorneys make money–from both employers and employees–because the devils are in the details.  Therefore, employers should consider having specific rules to protect themselves including:

  1. Employer approvals providing express written permission to work remotely may be made only by one or a predetermined set of individuals.
  1. Employee requests to work remotely must be submitted in writing through only one process.  
  1. IT teams should prohibit the use of public wi-fi, USB ports, and anything else that might compromise security without exceptions.  The IT department should send regular reminders about the perils of not following commonly violated rules such as use of family members’ hardware and reliance on any IT assistance other than that which is provided by the employer.  Of course, IT contact information should also be provided with each reminder
  1. Employees should be consistently reminded they are bound by all workplace expectations, duties, policies and procedures whenever they are working.  These reminders should be accompanied by reminders of an employee’s“at will” nature of employment and employer reservations of rights to monitor access to hardware, emails, and work product. 

As a quick aside, I am always chiding my friends for sending me personal emails from their work accounts.  Jeez, just use your AOL or hotmail account from 1999 if necessary!

The overall point of this post is obvious: make the best possible business decision and then rely on experienced professionals to ensure they can be implemented fairly.  And for those of you who rely on professional employer organizations (PEOs), you would be foolish not to seek their input from both practical and human resources perspectives.

David Seidman is the principal and founder of Seidman Law Group, LLC.  He serves as outside general counsel for companies, which requires him to consider a diverse range of corporate, dispute resolution and avoidance, contract drafting and negotiation, and other issues. He can be reached at david@seidmanlawgroup.com or 312-399-7390.

This blog post is not legal advice.  Please consult an experienced attorney to assist with your legal issues.

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