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OK to condition telecommuting on performance

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Lots of employees appreciate the opportunity to work from home. Employers also benefit from telecommuting. Most set reasonable rules to decide who is eligible to take advantage of work-at-home privileges.

They recognize that not everyone is suited to working independently. That’s one reason employers often limit telecommuting to employees with high scores on their performance evaluations.

That’s reasonable and likely will stand up in court.

Recent case: Kenneth worked for an insurance company until he was discharged for alleged poor performance. He claimed he had been fired because of his race and gender. In his lawsuit, he also claimed his employer had discriminated against him when it turned down his request to work from home.

But the insurance company ex-plained that permission to telecommute was premised on satisfactory performance. Kenneth’s performance reviews didn’t meet that standard.

Kenneth wanted the chance to prove that the evaluation was wrong. However, the court said the rule was reasonable and enforceable; none of the evidence Kenneth raised showed that the evaluation was unfair or tainted. (Robinson v. Horizon Blue Cross, No. 15-3049, 3rd Cir., 2017)

Final note: If an employer’s rules appear reasonable and if it seems to be enforcing rules fairly and impartially, courts usually hesitate to step in and demand that they be re-written just because an employee filed a lawsuit.

The key is to be prepared to explain the reason for your rule. For example, limiting working at home to those who have proven they can do their jobs well is reasonable.

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