Health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic have lessened during the last few months. This has re-introduced the topic of conversation pertaining to remote and hybrid work versus requiring employees to be in the office. While employers have asked their workers to return to the office, fully remote work remains an option for many employees. In other cases, employers are allowing hybrid work: some days at some and some in the office.
Remote work, including hybrid schedules, presents certain legal challenges to New York employers. Having seasoned guidance can help meet those challenges. Rosenbaum & Taylor explains.
From Remote to Hybrid Work
Many employers in New York and throughout the country were forced to allow remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 45% of full-time employees worked partly or fully remotely in September 2020, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of white collar workers worked partly or fully remotely. In May 2021, over 90% of workers wanted to retain some aspect of remote work.
A significant number of employees wanting to work remotely preferred a hybrid policy. This allowed them to work some time during the week at home, and some time in the office. This attitude was to be expected since during the height of the pandemic, much work was fully remote. Employees still want the option to work remote, at least to some degree. The changing shift in employee attitudes will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future. As a result, employers would be wise to offer at least a hybrid policy to their workers.
Possible Legal Issues Arising Out of Remote and Hybrid Work
Employees in New York often live in other states, like Connecticut or New Jersey. This creates some potential interstate issues when it comes to remote and hybrid work allowances. Some possible legal problems include those in the following areas:
If an employee lives in a state outside New York, and works at home, that state’s employment laws are implicated. The legal impact is immediately clear: the employer must be sure to comply with both states’ employment laws. In some cases, the laws are virtually identical. In others, it’s a matter of degrees (one state is stricter than the other). And in still other cases, the laws are completely different. Matters in which the employment laws could differ include:
- Minimum wage and overtime rules
- Family, medical, and other forms of employee leave
- Privacy laws
A similar issue arises with respect to taxes, including withholding rules. The employer may have to take steps to register its business with the state’s taxing authorities. Failure to properly withhold taxes can quickly subject an employer to legal problems.
Remote work becomes a possible hurdle if an employer attempts to force an employee to work from home. Doing so could violate a number of anti-discrimination laws. At the same time, employers may be required to permit work from home for certain groups in certain circumstances. This would be done to meet the requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualifying workers. An example is a disabled employee. Walking the tightrope of discrimination versus accommodation can be tricky, but a knowledgeable business law attorney can advise.
Here To Guide Your New York Business
Remote and hybrid work policies promote workplace health and boost employee morale. This has become especially evident in the changing attitudes and desires of workers in recent years. But adherence to various state and federal laws is a must to avoid exposing your company to liability. If you’re considering adopting a remote or hybrid work policy, let our experienced legal team help. Call Rosenbaum & Taylor today.