• Working from Home - Risks and Reward
  • June 10, 2014 | Author: Janet S. Hayes
  • Law Firm: Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C. - Knoxville Office
  • “Can I work from home?”

    Most employers have faced the question, but there is little consensus on the appropriate answer.

    Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announced last year that Yahoo! employees would no longer be allowed to work exclusively from home.

    Mayer cited lack of innovation and stifled creativity as reasons to discontinue remote work policies. Early reports predicted that other employers would quickly follow Yahoo!’s lead and dismantle flexible work arrangements.

    Some suggested that telecommuting was a trend nearing its end.

    Not so fast.

    Recent data suggests that the work-from-home movement is actually alive and growing in many sectors. One staffing company has reported that remote jobs for professionals grew 118 percent last year. Innovations in technology and communication tools have made it possible for many jobs to be done from almost any location.

    Companies with remote work policies claim cost benefits and generally increased productivity. They also get Brownie points for being employee-friendly.

    Employers must, however, be mindful of the legal challenges associated with remote work. If a worker suffers an injury while on the job, the employer is generally responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits — regardless of where the injury occurred.

    What happens when an employee is injured at home and claims it was work-related?

    Tennessee courts analyze these claims on a case-by-case basis to determine whether employers must pay. If the court determines the injury is causally related to job duties, the employer may be on the hook for the at-home accident.

    Employers may also find it difficult to make sure at-home employees are properly compensated. When hourly employees check emails from home or send texts from a smartphone, it might be legally compensable work time.

    Employers who do not train hourly workers to track and record those events might face liability. All employers should check with counsel to insure at-home practices comply with federal wage and hour laws.

    Whether working from the kitchen table or the office cubicle, the fact remains that legal risks exist in every workplace arena. The Yahoo! decision to discontinue remote work coupled with the subsequent rise of remote work job listings simply demonstrates that there is not one best approach for all employers.

    Savvy employers will evaluate all risks and rewards to determine whether remote work policies make sense for them.