The coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed how we work. More employers are now open to remote work and employees are increasingly asking employers for authorization to work remotely. Employers are also realizing there is a benefit to remote work. Many have done away with office spaces altogether to save on rent, maintenance and other expenses that come with leasing workspaces. This change has also altered the way in which businesses operate and has raised a number of issues, especially how remote work relates to employment law.
It is important for all California employees to understand that they still have rights that are protected under state and federal laws. If you believe that your employer is taking advantage of you because you are working from home or working remotely, it is important that you contact an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer to better understand your legal rights and options.
At-Will Employment in California
Whether you work in an office or remotely at home, California is an "at-will" employment state. This means that an employer has the right to hire, fire, demote or change an employee's job description without cause, just as the employee has the right to quit their job without giving a cause. However, it is unlawful for employers to fire an employee on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. If you are working remotely, it is still important that you check your contract. If you believe that your employer has changed the details of your contract without consulting with you, it is important that you contact an employment lawyer.
Business Expense Reimbursement
Federal law does not require employers to pay for work-related expenses incurred by employees while working from home. However, California has laws that require reimbursement for necessary work-related expenses such as Internet access, cell phone use and office supplies and equipment such as printers. Covering such expenses has become a major concern since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed many employees to work remotely.
California requires employers to reimburse remote workers for all business-related expenses, depending on their job duties, including:
- Phone use for business purposes
- New workstations and computer
- Home Internet use and Wi-fi costs
- Online subscriptions such as a paid plan for teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom
- Office supplies and postage
- Ergonomic desk and chair
It is important to remember that when an employer supplies home office equipment, it is still the company's property and any related policies will apply. Also, when an employee leaves their job, they would have to return this property to their employer.
Remote Work and Employment Laws for Los Angeles Workers
Remote work certainly has legal implications. It is important that employers establish a telecommuting policy, especially for hourly or non-exempt workers. This policy must specifically outline what qualifies as work and offer guidance about maintaining records. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends that employers create a comprehensive remote work policy specific to each position. The recommendations also state that employers should make sure employees understand their roles and agree to the terms and expectations in writing. Employers and employees should also agree on a plan regarding how to log hours worked.
CA Overtime Pay Laws
One of the important legal issues that arise in remote work is overtime. It is typically easier for supervisors to keep track of when employees work overtime in an office setting. However, in a remote setting, supervisors may not be immediately aware that workers are putting in overtime hours. Employees are entitled to overtime pay under California law when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, or when they work more than eight hours in one workday.
Nonexempt California workers must receive a 10-minute paid break for every four hours worked, under the law. In addition, employees must receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours worked. Employees are also entitled to receive the correct minimum wage regardless of whether they are working in an office or remotely.
Remote Workers in Different States
Employees now work remotely from anywhere in the United States even though their company may be headquartered elsewhere. In such cases, employers have an obligation to comply with federal and state labor laws. In some situations, employers need to comply with two states' labor laws. For example, if your employer is headquartered in Texas, but you are based in California, you should receive the California minimum wage, which in 2023 is $15.50 an hour, as opposed to the minimum wage in Texas, which is $7.25 an hour.
Protecting Your Rights
Remote work in no way exempts your employer from state and federal labor laws. Remote workers have the same rights as those who go to an office, even though some laws are less relevant to remote work. Discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, wage and hour disputes and retaliation can all occur in a remote work setting.
The experienced Los Angeles employment attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers fight for the rights of employees across California. If you believe that your employer is violating your rights, call us to find out how we can help you seek justice and fair compensation for your losses.