Does Remote Work Increase Risk of Wage/Hour Claims?

The onset of COVID-19 in the United States has resulted in many workplaces shifting to a partial or completely remote workplace, which means that many employees are now working from home when they were not prior to the pandemic. Shifting to a work-from-home model can have many complications for employers, including wage and hour issues. If your business has some or all of its employees working remotely, you may be wondering about wage and hour claims and whether remote work can result in an increase in these kinds of claims. Generally speaking, wage and hour claims for telecommuting employees tend to be a greater concern for non-exempt employees, such as those who are paid on an hourly basis. Nevertheless, exempt employees also may try to file wage and hour claims while working remotely.

It is possible that working remotely may increase an employer’s wage and hour claims from employees. What can an employer do to reduce the risk of wage and hour claims while employees are working remotely or working from home? It is critical to understand wage and hour issues that may be raised, and to take steps to avoid these types of disputes.

When Non-Exempt Employees Are Working from Home

Whether your non-exempt employees are working from home purely due to COVID-19 risks or because of a larger scale shift to telecommuting in your business practice, the wage and hour issues will largely be the same. In general, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires Texas employers to treat non-exempt employees similarly whether they are working from home or coming into a physical workplace. Under the FLSA, Texas employers must pay non-exempt employees the minimum wage (the Texas minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 per hour). In addition, employers must pay overtime for hours worked in a work week over 40.  Such overtime must be paid at the rate of time and one-half of the employee’s regular rate.  Employers also are required to keep records of employee hours worked and wage payments.

To ensure that your business is in compliance with the FLSA and to avoid wage and hour claims, you should consider the following for non-exempt employees who are working from home:

  • Amend your workplace policies so that employees are required to report hours worked in a specific manner when they are working from home;
  • Provide updated information and guidelines for employees about overtime pay when working from home;
  • Understand appropriate ways of supervising work-from-home employees;
  • Create a policy for using employer-provided computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices during non-working hours;
  • Create and maintain set working hours; and
  • Develop a system for logging employee hours worked from home.

For non-exempt employees, you need to remember that employees cannot be expected to do any work when they are not being paid. Accordingly, once an employee’s shift is over, unless the employee will be paid for additional time, you cannot require an employee to respond to emails, phone calls, or to perform any other work.  This can be more difficult in a work-from-home environment, so you need to take proper steps to ensure such off the clock work is not being performed.

Exempt Employees in Remote Work Scenarios

Managing exempt employees can be less complicated, but an employer should still take steps to prevent wage and hour claims. Generally speaking, employers should consider the following:

  • Track the type of remote work your employees are doing to ensure that they are indeed exempt (majority of time spent on work must be work that gives the employee exempt status);
  • Ensure that exempt employees are paid for the entire workweek if they work during the week at all; and
  • Keep track of employees’ “absences,” which can permit deductions in some limited circumstances.

See Advice from a Dallas Employment Lawyer

 Managing employees who are working from home can be complicated, and wage and hour claims may arise, but a Dallas employment lawyer can help. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC for more information about how we assist employers in Texas.

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