On March 19, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a temporary Stay at Home Order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Relatedly, on March 18, 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Act”), which goes into effect on April 1, 2020. Among other things, the Act provides up to 12-weeks of paid leave to eligible employees impacted by COVID-19 who are unable to telework. As such, many employers are offering telework arrangements to workers. Below are issues to consider regarding teleworking.
What is Telework?
Generally, telework means working one or more days away from the main office, in a space at the employee’s residence.
When and With Whom Is Telework Appropriate?
During the interim period of Governor Newsom’s Stay at Home Order, Telework arrangements are proper with all employees not working in critical infrastructure sectors, who are willing and able to work from home. Determinations cannot be based on race or country of origin, and must not otherwise be administered in a discriminatory way.
Telework and Wage & Hour Laws
All federal and state wage and hour laws still apply to telework arrangements. For example, non-exempt employees are still entitled to receive legally compliant meal and rest breaks. Employers must pay an extra hour of pay each day in which they fail to provide a meal or rest period. Likewise, employees must be paid for all hours worked, including for overtime hours. Accurate pay and time records must also be maintained.
Equipment, Supplies, and Related Business Expenses
Employers are required to reimburse employees for expenses “necessarily incurred” in their employment. To the extent equipment, supplies, materials, and related items are necessary for you to fulfill your telework job, your employer may need to provide you with such items or reimburse you for purchasing them. Your employer may have a reimbursement policy requiring advance notice and approval before incurring such business expenses.
Telework and Workplace Safety
Like the office or normal worksite, the telework location should be a healthy and safe environment. As such, employers may have policies requiring the telework location to be free from potential obstructions and hazards, such as clutter, exposed wiring, slippery surfaces, and other potential hazards.
Telework and Workers Compensation
California businesses with one or more employees must carry workers compensation insurance. There is no exception for this requirement for employees who telework. An employer may be liable for “any injury sustained by his or her employees arising out of and in the course of employment.” Liability for an injury sustained by an employee while working at a telework location is no different than if the employee had sustained the injury while working in the office or at the worksite.
Confidentiality, Privacy, Security, and Protection
Many employers will require employees to comply with their standard policies and procedures regarding non-disclosure, confidentiality, and security. Be sure to check with your supervisor and/or human resources department to ensure you are complying with the employer’s policies in this regard.