The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically expanded the meaning of “workplace.” With many more people teleworking than ever before, our living rooms have become offices and, unfortunately, our “workday” is not always well-defined. Teleworking does have many benefits, particularly to help people stay safe and healthy, but it can also be a curse.
Even when employees are not technically at the typical work site — you still have rights. There are employment laws in place that protect you from getting taken advantage of by an employer willing to violate the law.
How Teleworking Can Be a Curse
The primary curse when it comes to teleworking is all about time. There is no punch clock at your home or a wave goodbye to co-workers at the end of the workday saying, “See you tomorrow!” Those easy signals that you have put in a good day of work and are ready for your personal time to begin are absent when you are teleworking.
Do you get up early or stay up late to write emails, take calls, attend meetings, perform projects, or other types of work? This type of behavior is all too common — and people are often not appropriately paid for their actual working time.
Your boss might say, “You should feel lucky to work from home. Not everyone gets to do that.” This is definitely true. But, that does not mean that you are required to work all the time or have unlimited accessibility to perform work duties. Employees have a right to receive fair compensation, whether they are working at the job site or taking care of their work responsibilities at home.
If you have unpaid wages, commissions, or bonuses, it would be advisable to consult with an experienced employment attorney. The same goes for overtime. Have you been expected to work 50, 60, or even 70 hours per week at home, qualify for overtime, and have not been paid for it? Your rights to fair wages may have been violated.
The FFCRA and Teleworking
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed in April of 2020 and amended in September. Administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL), the FFCRA provides 80 hours of COVID-19-related emergency paid sick leave for qualified employees. It also allows for 12 weeks to care for a child if the childcare provider or school is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. The Act is effective until December 31, 2020. Potentially, there could be new COVID-19 relief coming in 2021 for employees and families across the country. It is always important to keep updated on any changes that may affect your employee rights.
Teleworkers are not excluded from the FFCRA.
What Employees Can Do to Help Ensure a Fair Wage
Organization and documentation are an employee’s best assets when you are teleworking. Acquire a ledger or keep a file on your computer of your actual time worked, including activities such as phone calls, emails, and project work before or after regular working hours.
You also may be eligible to be paid for commuting for required meetings even if your “office” is your home. Keep all HR records available to you, such as employment contracts, employee handbooks, and other HR policy materials (hard copy or digital). All of this can serve an important role in ensuring a fair wage.
Teleworking & Employee Rights
Even though there are benefits to working from home, that does not mean you have to suffer the consequences of employee rights violations. Understand you deserve what you are lawfully owed, document and detail your time as much as possible, and contact an employment law attorney if you feel your rights have been violated.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., is the employee’s law firm— a tireless legal team fighting for your rights.