Q. We recently started permitting two of our employees to telecommute on certain days of the week. We are concerned with tracking these employees’ hours. What are the wage-and-hour concerns we should be aware of for telecommuting employees?
A. Telecommuting has recently become a popular work option. It gives employers and employees alike more flexibility in terms of hours worked. For two-earner families, telecommuting can make child care easier. For almost everyone, it’s a practical way to cut commuting costs. In a sluggish economy, telework—which reduces office space needs—has emerged as a way to avoid layoffs.
However, allowing telecommuting is not without risk under the Fair Labor Standards Act ().
FLSA complaints from home-based workers often center on working through breaks and meal periods, travel time to attend meetings, responding to after-hours phone calls and emails and general waiting time.
To limit the potential liability associated with telecommuting, employers should consider the following:
- Identify jobs and employees best suited for possible telecommuting arrangements, because not all jobs are appropriate for telecommuting.
- Do not reclassify a nonexempt employee to exempt or reclassify the employee as an independent contractor simply because the employee is choosing to work outside the office.
- Require strict recordkeeping of hours worked, breaks and all overtime.
- Develop a policy to ensure the security of computer files and other company-related materials.
- Require a written agreement or written terms of employment that set specific restrictions on work hours. Require advance approval for all overtime work.
In short, it is important to remember that nonexempt telecommuting employees must be paid for all of the same “hours worked” as employees who don’t telecommute.