Workplace Flexibility Benefits Everyone in the Era of Social Distancing  

workplace flexibilityA new world of workplace flexibility? Not quite gone are the days of a strict 8-5 work day, but many businesses are seeing the benefits of adapting to the times, and that means retooling expectations for employees in a number of ways. Accommodations can benefit both the employee and the employer, and in some situations, may be essential under state and federal law. In any situation, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for employees. With real concerns about COVID-19 plaguing Americans, it is important for every company to rethink the way they do business. The failure to do so could result in serious consequences, one of which is an employee lawsuit.


The Americans With Disabilities Act


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with a qualifying physical or mental impairment that limits their life activities in some way. That being said, the disabled individual must be able to perform what are considered to be essential functions of the job, or those that are basic to the job itself. The ADA regulations apply to any employer with 15 or more workers. The types of accommodations vary, but one that is consistently called out as reasonable is allowing an employee to adjust the work schedule. The truth is, employers often benefit from such accommodations every bit as much as workers do because they get high-quality work from well-qualified employees.


Examples of Workplace Flexibility


The fact is,flexible work expectation often benefit all parties, regardless of disability.  Particularly as the nation struggles to respond to a pandemic, a number of flexible workplace arrangements may make sense: 

  • Telecommuting: Some positions may lend themselves to telecommuting, allowing employees to work and conference via computer. Potential benefits include the obvious reduction in travel and installation of workplace flexibility accommodations for those with disabilities. Other employees may also enjoy less commuting, less exposure to potentially contagious individuals, and more flexibility generally.
  • Alternate Scheduling: In order to reduce traffic in the workplace, it may be possible to alternate shifts, keeping fewer employees in an area at a time. In the era of social distancing, this may be a key strategy to put more space between workers. It may also benefit employees who prefer alternate shifts in order to accommodate child care or who are dealing with other issues.

Discrete Measures Designed to Protect


For service-oriented industries, social distancing gets a little more complicated. Some tips that might be utilized include: 

  • No-visitor policies;
  • Staggering shift work;
  • Pooling workplace tasks to reduce congestion;
  • Adaptations to workplace design;
  • Streamlining procedures.

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Telecommuting – Legal Considerations


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Telecommuting seems like a no-brainer for many companies these days. Well over 30 million people in this country work from home at least once a week, and that does not include the three million self-employed people who work from home most of the time. The number of e-commuters is expected to approach 70 million in the next year! If your company is one that is considering this move, an experienced employment lawyer can help you get your ducks in a row so the transition works smoothly for everyone involved.

Telecommuting – A Popular Trend

Telecommuting has become a fantastic compromise for companies and their employees. This practice has increased by over 80% in recent years. The freedom that workers enjoy in terms of scheduling work may even increase productivity. Workers avoid horrendous California commutes, eliminating the stress other workers cannot avoid. Companies do not have to worry about providing a workspace, which can save big bucks. No wonder so many companies are looking to expand work opportunities to include telecommuting. However, employees and employers alike should be aware of serious considerations with regard to this this modern-day work arrangement.

Legal Considerations of Telecommuting

  • Confidentiality: Companies should do everything possible to ensure that company information remains confidential; nondisclosure agreements are highly recommended. Beyond that, the home work area should be relatively private, and companies must guarantee that they can retrieve files at any time from employees who work at home. Likewise, employees must understand that their work may be monitored at any time.
  • Security: Employees need a secure, encrypted network with a reliable firewall. It is the only way sensitive information can be protected.
  • Wages: Although salaried employees may not face additional issues, hourly employees may be eligible for overtime pay. Businesses must necessarily establish a clear-cut means for tracking hours.
  • Liability Issues: Employers must understand that if an employee is injured at home, it may be deemed the employer’s responsibility. Damage to property or to a third party during telecommuting work that is caused through the negligence of the employee could be deemed the employer’s responsibility, as well. Frequently in these situations, homes are considered an extension of the workspace by the courts. Consider, too, that many telecommuters conduct their business from coffee shops and other public spaces. It is critical that clear guidelines exist as to where and when work may be done for the company.
  • Discriminatory Practices: Telecommuter opportunities must not be limited to particular workers, such as only young or female workers.
  • ADA Implications: The Americans With Disability Act provides for reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. This may include telecommuting for some positions within the company.
  • Divergent Laws: Since employees may not be located in the same geographical area, the possibility of encountering different laws, around taxation, for example, must be considered.
  • Written Policies: It is more important than ever to devise policies addressing these and other issues, and put them into writing. Making sure everyone is on the same page with regards to expectations from the start will help employers and employees avoid conflicts down the road.

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The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.