Labor and Employment

Work-at-Home Employment in the Internet Age

Advances in technology allow employees to work from home more easily, an arrangement called telecommuting. With the help of the internet, some workers can do the same job at home as they would in an office. This can be an advantage for employees and employers alike. However, certain laws apply when the work-at-home employment arrangement is ongoing rather than temporary.

Employment Laws Stay the Same

"At-will" laws apply to employment in every state but Montana. Unless you work in that state, your employer can fire you, demote you, cut your pay, or lay you off at any time and for almost any reason. The only restriction is that the reason can't be based on discriminatory factors like your age, sex, or race. If you have an agreement with your employer that allows you to work from home, this doesn't override at-will employment laws. Working at home is not the same as being an independent contractor. You're still an employee, and your employer controls the work you do.

Work-At-Home Agreements and the Disabled

The federal government recognizes work-at-home arrangements on behalf of disabled employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees issues of workplace discrimination, says that allowing disabled employees to work from home is an "accommodation." Federal law requires employers to take certain steps to allow disabled workers to do their jobs just as well as other workers, or to accommodate their disabilities.

Working From Home Can Result in Tax Deductions

Some employees who work from home can claim tax deductions related to their home workspace. Typically, a disabled worker would not be able to claim a home office deduction because the arrangement benefits the worker, not necessarily the employer. But if you're working from home because your employer lacks sufficient office space for you to work at the employer's business location, telecommuting benefits your employer. This makes your costs associated with a home office tax-deductible.

Your Agreement Should Be Written and Comprehensive

It's a good idea to get any work-at-home agreement in writing. Doing so protects both the employer and the employee. The agreement should state that the employee is still obligated to follow business rules and codes of conduct. It should state exactly what work the employee is responsible for producing each pay period, and whether the employee is supposed to be on call during certain hours. If the employee is taking home business equipment, such as a computer, the agreement should address what happens if the equipment is stolen or damaged.

An Employment Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding work-at-home employee agreements can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.

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