Working from Home: Sidebar on Legal Issues for Nonprofits

This sidebar article accompaniesA Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Do Them Right.

While Rita [the pseudonym for attorneys Ellen Aldridge and Pamela Fyfe of theA Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group] wholly agrees that alternative work arrangements are a great recruitment and retention tool for Nonprofits, compliance with employment laws cannot be ignored: out of sight should not mean out of mind. If you take the following guidelines into consideration when adopting alternative work arrangements for your staff, you'll stay on the right side of the law.

  • Accurately track time of non-exempt employees. Under state laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, hours worked must be accurately tracked for employees who do not meet the requirements for exemption from those laws. To avoid these situations, many employers only allow exempt employees to telecommute. However, it is possible to allow telecommuting of non-exempt employees if certain safeguards are maintained:
  • Track hours worked for each day worked. If your state requires unpaid meal periods or breaks those should be tracked as well.
  • Have a mechanism for verifying hours worked, like requiring an email or phone call at the beginning and/or end of each work period.
  • Require any overtime to be authorized in writing, in advance. Tell non-exempt employees that they are not to work outside scheduled hours, and if you see an 11 p.m. work email, immediately inform the employee that this is not authorized and could jeopardize their telecommuting arrangement. Any time spent emailing or texting is considered work time and must be paid for non-exempt employees.
  • Ensure a safe workplace.A OSHAA safety rules and regulations apply to all workplaces, including the home office. Take steps to ensure the employee maintains a safe workplace, including compliance with ergonomic standards. Ensure the employee complies with your anti-harassment policy and reports any violations. Do not allow business visitors access to telecommuting locations, and reserve the right to inspect the workspace to ensure there is compliance with agency policy. If an injury occurs to a telecommuting employee, follow the standard workers' compensation injury reporting procedures.
  • Ensure proper use of digital communication devices. All employers should have a policy regarding the proper use of communication devices to ensure that security, confidentiality and non-discrimination policies are followed. Employers should take steps to enforce these policies for telecommuters, including informing employees that per its policy the nonprofit may gain access to data stored on home computers. Specify if the employee has to install anti-virus software and establish clear security protocols for access to agency servers.

See also:A Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Do Them Right

Pamela Fyfe is an HR attorney with theA Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, where she advises member nonprofits on wrongful termination, wage & hour, discrimination, harassment, and other employment issues to help keep them out of court.

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