Working from home (WFH) during the global pandemic has been a shift that nobody anticipated. To create a successful WFH company environment, there is a shared responsibility between employers and employees to ensure business continues as normally as possible and that communication is open and encouraged. As an employee, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities under your employer during this time.
Here are some things that are essential to know as an employee during work-from-home:
Virtual Communication and Collaboration
While no permanent adjustments to the company’s terms and conditions of employment are required, your employer may consider appending your company policy to include a section detailing your WFH requirements, rights, and expectations. Even if there are no company-specific protocols, you should regularly check on provisions and updates to existing laws and regulations related to labor and employment, occupational safety and health, and the relevant industry guidelines issued by national, state, and local authorities. Understanding these things is essential to make sure you have the most up-to-date information, even if your employer is not providing it.
Health and Safety of Employees
Your employer has a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees during work hours, even if you are not physically in the same space. This includes ensuring they can provide the proper equipment and accommodations for you and your coworkers to complete your jobs, especially for employees with disabilities. Following ADA guidelines to provide proper accommodation is just as vital, if not more so, during COVID-19. Additionally, worker’s compensation still applies when an employee works from home. If someone falls ill or gets injured, it’s compensable if it arises out of and during the course of employment, regardless of the location the employee was in when the incident occurred. Ensure your employer has proper protocols in place to protect you and the company should worker’s compensation be required during this time.
Understanding your employer’s reimbursement responsibilities can be confusing. Shifts to virtual workspaces happened quickly, and many companies did not have the infrastructure in place to support ample communication and organization while working virtually. There were likely many required purchases that came with the transition, but how many of those are employers required to reimburse? California Labor Code § 2802 requires employers to reimburse California employees for “all necessary business expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.” A “necessary” expenditure may be more loosely defined in a WFH environment, but it is generally agreed that platforms and services that must be purchased on a personal computer and required technologies such as laptops or cellphones that were purchased after WFH announcements are items that your employers may need to reimburse.
Data Safety Guidelines
Even if employees have transitioned to using personal computers to work from home, there is still a shared responsibility to keep any and all company data safe. Having a strong information technology system in place with the necessary safeguards, including the safe transmission of confidential data outside the workplace, is essential to keep data safe during WFH. HR should walk through the proper software protections and installations each employee should make on their personal computers, and remind employees of the company data protection policy.
If you are an employee that believes any of these rights are being violated, please contact Gokal Law Group to determine if you have a case.
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