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12 Telecommuting Challenges

Telecommuting is gaining in popularity among employees and even some employers, but workplace issues can still be issues, even if the workplace is home.

Jeff Tenenbaum, who chairs the Nonprofit Organizations Practice Group at Venable LLP, notes that federal and state labor laws still apply, even for telecommuters. There are other considerations that should be heeded when contemplating telecommuting.
  • The suitability of certain positions to telecommuting?
  • Wage and hour requirements. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state counterparts raise issues for how nonprofits monitor telecommuter work schedules.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) issues.
  • Workers’ compensation laws.
  • Implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer is not necessarily required to permit telecommuting merely because it is the employee’s preferred reasonable accommodation.
  • Anti-discrimination. Telecommuting typically raises concerns about disparate impact claims, which arise not from intentional discrimination but inadvertent problems arising from company policy.
  • Medical leave needs. The most common problem arises when employers use telecommuting to pressure employees not to take medical leave.
  • Privacy issues. These can conflict with an employer’s need to monitor the employee’s performance.
  • Protection of confidential and proprietary information. Home office equipment such as computers and other devices containing work product and sensitive information should be dedicated to work-related activities only.
  • Income taxes. Complications can arise when an employee telecommutes from a different state.
  • Tort liability. Liability insurance should cover the telecommuting employee’s home.
  • Zoning laws.
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