Before allowing employees to work from home or another remote location, consider the risk of making your organization liable under anti-discrimination laws in the state or city where that telecommuter lives.
As the following case shows, an employee permitted to telecommute from another state or city could hold your organization liable under discrimination laws in that faraway location.
Recent case: Global Healthcare Exchange, based in Chicago, hired Kristin Cuene as its director of international business. It allowed Cuene to work from her home office in New York City. She communicated with execs via phone and e-mail, with face-to-face contact limited to business trips.
After three months, the company fired Cuene, saying that she wasn’t a good match. Cuene filed suit in New York, alleging sex discrimination in violation of federal laws as well as the anti-discrimination laws in New York state and New York City.
Global cried foul, arguing against dragging it into a New York court when its only contact with the state was through Cuene’s phone lines. The court disagreed, concluding state and local laws can protect employees who work from home even if their employer is hundreds of miles away. (International Healthcare Exchange, et al. v. Global Healthcare Exchange, et al., No. 02-CV-7862, SD NY, 2007)
Final tip: Before authorizing a telecommute request, check if it will mean complying with additional state and local laws.
- Warn supervisors: No angry responses to employee complaints
- Study cites New York as a hotbed of wage-and-hour claims
- Seek Written OK for Internal-Complaint Resolutions
- No need to get employees' OK before misconduct investigations
- Take sexual harassment complaints seriously—even if they involve past lovers