Business Litigation Alert: "How to Make it Work When Employees Work from Home"

Telecommuting Issues Facing Employers

Yahoo! made the news in February when it's CEO, Marissa Mayer, did away with the company’s telecommuting policy and required all employees to report for work in their respective offices. According to an internal Yahoo! memo, the company needed a “spirit of collaboration” to improve productivity issues, and Mayer believes that can only be accomplished when employees are in the actual workplace.

As companies continue to review and evaluate their telecommuting policies, below are a few legal issues to consider:

  • Establish a Formal Policy. Many employers offer telecommuting on an informal basis but the absence of a formal policy can lead to inconsistent application, and possibly expose employers to discrimination lawsuits. Maintaining a formal telecommuting policy will help employers avoid such claims.
  • Define Eligibility Requirements. Employers that permit telecommuting must do so in a non-discriminatory manner. Eligibility can be defined by objective criteria such as position, title, or length of service with the company; it cannot be based on an employee’s protected class such as gender.
  • Protect Company Data. Employers offering telecommuting want to protect their confidential data and intellectual property. Employers should consider policies that require the registration of personal devices with the company’s IT department to ensure the security settings and installed software comply with company practice.

Notwithstanding the decision by Yahoo!, telecommuting can offer employers and employees advantages – reduced overhead, increased employee satisfaction with flexible work schedules, decreased absenteeism, and reduction in an employer’s “carbon footprint.” Employers offering telecommuting should take into account the issues stated above and create formal written policies that work for their business.

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