We frequently assist Wisconsin businesses in their employment law matters, and remote work is a recent trend that has been the root of many recent employment law disputes. If you are going to permit employees to work remotely, you should consider adopting a policy to set forth clear expectations and limit your legal liability.
Wisconsin businesses have had to adapt to a changing employment law landscape, and many are faced with employment law questions relating to employees wishing to work remotely. While there are the practical concerns (Are remote employees productive? How do you monitor their work?), the legal implications include:
What provisions must be contained in a Remote Work or Virtual Office Policy?
We strongly recommend that all Remote Work Policies include at a minimum the following:
- Working Remotely is a privilege and not an employee right.
- Policy can be modified or revoked by the employer at any time, for any reason with or without advance notice.
- Employment remains “at will.”
Examples of Remote Work Rules
Other provisions an employer may wish to consider would include that employees are required to:
- Designate a safe and secure remote workplace to perform their duties while working remotely from home that is quiet and distraction-free.
- Have an internet connection that’s adequate for their job.
- Use their company office phone number as internal customers will need to reach you.
- Dedicate their full attention to their job duties during working hours.
- Adhere to break and attendance schedules agreed upon with their manager.
- Ensure their schedules overlap with those of their team members for as long as is necessary to complete their job duties effectively.
- Be available for teleconferences, scheduled on an as-needed basis.
- Be available to come into the office if a business need arises, for team collaboration opportunities or if workflow requires.
- Request supervisor approval in advance of working any overtime hours (if employee is non-exempt) or any hours beyond your normal work schedule.
- Request supervisor approval to use paid time off (vacation, sick, or other leave) in the same manner as when working at employee’s regular work location.
- Follow all company policies regardless of work location.
Company Property & Expenses for Remote Work Employees
Employers should also consider what equipment they will provide to employees working remotely, if any, and if they will reimburse for any expenses. It should be clear that all company equipment must be returned at termination of employment. Employers should also consider a tracking system for company property. For example, a policy could provide that:
The Employer will supply the equipment and supplies necessary to complete expected work. Equipment includes, but is not limited to, laptops, portable scanners, printers, etc. Office furniture is not a reimbursable expense. All equipment or other materials and supplies provided to employees will at all times remain the sole and exclusive property of Employer. Upon separation from the Employer, or at any time upon request by the Employer, all Employer equipment must be returned in the condition in which it was sent to the employee. There shall be no reimbursement for internet connectivity or other such costs, unless there is prior approval by Employer. Out-of-pocket expenses for other supplies and other expenses will not be reimbursed without prior approval.
Confidentiality & Data Security in the Remote Workplace
Confidentiality and data security are two of the biggest concerns with remote work. Remote work policies should specifically address this issue.
For example, a policy could state:
Consistent with the Company’s expectations of information security for employees working at the office, remote working employees will be expected to ensure the protection of
proprietary and confidential information accessible from their home office. Specifically, employees must:
- Keep their equipment password protected.
- Store equipment in a safe and clean space when not in use.
- Follow all data encryption, protection standards and settings.
- Refrain from downloading suspicious, unauthorized or illegal software.
Liability for Employees Working Remotely
Another area of concern may be that employers are unable to monitor employees conduct if they are working remotely, including safety. Policies should be clear that employers assume no responsibility for injuries occurring in the employee’s remote workspace outside normal working hours or for injuries that occur as a result of a reasonably recognizable unsafe remote workspace. Employees should agree to maintain safe conditions in the remote workspace and to practice no less than the same safety habits and rules as those that apply on Company premises.
What other areas should an employer be concerned with?
Employers should contact their insurance company to discuss any concerns relating to insuranceon company property, injuries sustained by employees working remotely, data breaches, etc.
Any employment policy should be applied uniformly to avoid claims of employment discrimination.
Employers should assess if employment accommodations need to be considered to allow employees to work effectively.
If you are an employer looking to adopt a remote work policy, or if you have questions about this article or need assistance, please contact Schloemer Law Firm, S.C or this article’s authors Attorney Amanda N. Sacks or Jack W. Rettler at 262-334-3471 or [email protected] or [email protected].
We frequently represent employers and businesses, focusing primarily on providing legal services in Washington, Ozaukee, Dodge, and Fond du Lac County and the communities of West Bend, Jackson, Slinger, Hartford, Kewaskum and other surrounding communities.
Originally published: September 13, 2022
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law, Schloemer Law Firm makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content. You should consult with an attorney to review the current status of the law and how it applies to your unique circumstances before deciding to take—or refrain from taking—any action. If you need legal guidance, please contact us at 262-334-3471 or [email protected].