Telecommuting

Kayla Moreland , May 14, 2015

The 21st century workplace has drastically changed from the traditional office setting as telecommuting has become an increasingly popular work option.  According to statistics from the American Community Survey, telecommuting has risen nearly 80% since 2005.  But telecommuting programs are not without risk.  Although it provides benefits to both employees and employers, these arrangements can raise several management and legal issues, particularly under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Employers should proceed with caution when instituting telecommuting policies to avoid violating wage and hour laws.

Here are two common FLSA complaints from telecommuters:

1. Unpaid after-hour work. Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular rate when they work over 40 hours in a workweek.  But when employees routinely work from home, separating work from non-work is a difficult task, and these arrangements often lead to the failure to count certain hours worked as compensable hours.  Employers should have telecommuting employees sign a written agreement that clearly sets forth the specific hours and work schedules the employees should maintain.

2. Travel time. Another issue under the FLSA is whether travel time from a remote employee’s home office to the main office is compensable.  Normally, an employee’s commute to work and back is not compensable time under the FLSA.  29 C.F.R.785.35.  Travel is compensable time, however, if it is a part of the employee’s principal activity, such as traveling between two job sites during the workday.  This often applies to telecommuting employees, for example, who may be required to attend meetings or training at their employer’s workplace.

Source: Dave Clemens, 4 Telecommuting Mistakes to Avoid, (June 10, 2014), http://www.businessinsider.com/4-telecommuting-mistakes-to-avoid-2014-6; Global Workplace Analytics, http://www.globalworkplaceanalytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/Table2.jpg
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