If your employer has arranged for teleworking to facilitate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the employer must still meet its obligations to provide a lawful working environment for you and other employees. For example, even when you are teleworking, your employer must still provide a working environment where you are not subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
Further, when you work from home, your employer must also implement any applicable disability accommodations you may need. For example, if your employer had provided you adaptive equipment to facilitate working with a disability, you are entitled to the same or a comparable accommodation when you work from home.
In addition to anti-discrimination and disability laws, your employer must also comply with any labor laws applicable to your position. You remain entitled to overtime pay (if overtime laws apply to your job) for any overtime work you perform while working from home. You may be entitled to meal and rest breaks free from any work responsibilities, and you should be paid for all time worked. Your employer should set out clear goals for your teleworking arrangement, so you always know what is expected of you in terms of your working hours. Even if you are an “exempt” employee for whom many of the laws governing working hours do not apply, your new teleworking arrangement cannot incidentally change your job responsibilities so that you are required to perform non-exempt job functions without additional compensation.
From a practical standpoint, if your company sends you home and you need to augment your home office with equipment and supplies that you would normally have at work, you may be entitled to reimbursement for any out-of-pocket expenses you incur while you are teleworking. Many employers may offer to provide essential equipment, but, if they do not, they cannot pass the cost of doing business onto their employees.
Every situation is different, whether or not an employer has met its legal obligations to provide a lawful working environment for a teleworking employee will depend on the details. If you think your employer has not met its obligations to provide you an appropriate working environment for teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should contact an experienced labor and employment attorney who can assess the facts of your situation.
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