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How Telework Impacts Wage and Hour Laws featured image

How Telework Impacts Wage and Hour Laws

With the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), millions of American workers shifted to telework to help stop the spread of the virus. As businesses switched to Zoom calls and time-tracking software, many of these companies ended up realizing that they didn’t need all of that office space afterall. Another motivating force to move away from the office is that the employees preferred to work from home. 

A recent Gallup poll revealed that only around 25 percent of employees are emotionally prepared to return to their office space, while another quarter are concerned about contracting COVID-19. Half of the workers surveyed said they have a personal preference for telework. In other words, approximately 75 percent of American workers would prefer to work from home until the pandemic subsides, and it’s fair to estimate that many of these workers will continue to work remotely for multiple days a week until 2021. Some may never return to a traditional office setting. 

Considering the strong trend of employees preferring telework, it’s only fair for employers and employees alike to consider how wage and hour laws are impacted by this dramatic shift in work culture. In this article, a Tampa wage and hour attorney discusses some of the most common ways an employer can violate wage and hour laws related to telework. If you believe you’re owed additional compensation, including overtime pay, consult a Tampa overtime lawyer

The Pros and Cons of Telework

Teleworking has its pros and cons for any business owner. The advantages of telework are that there’s less overhead costs for a traditional office space. Usually, remote work will also lead to a happier workforce as they have some flexibility over their work hours. There are some cons to telework, too, from the employer’s perspective. Mostly, they never truly know when an employee is working. Moreover, adjusting some of their company policies to accommodate telework can be a hassle. 

The Problem With Overtime Pay

One major wage and hour issue with telework is overtime pay as some non-exempt employees may feel motivated to work longer hours from home, whereas employers may be less enthusiastic about paying them for every hour they work outside of their supervision. Regardless, by law, non-exempt employees should be paid for every hour they work. Yet, when a company shifts to telework, this may not happen for a variety of reasons. 

In many cases, an employer simply isn’t tracking hours and pays their hourly employees the same fixed rate as their salaried counterparts. The problem is that the fixed total does not account for overtime compensation. So the non-exempt worker works over 40 hours in a week and doesn’t receive one-and-one-half times the compensation for each additional hour over 40 that they work. Or worse, they don’t receive any additional compensation. If you are owed additional overtime pay, speak with our Tampa overtime lawyers

What Employers Can Do (and Hourly Employees Too)

To fix this common issue with telework and overtime pay, here are a few ways employers can address the issue and a few ways hourly employees can ensure they receive payment for every hour they work:

Time Tracking Systems

Employers should keep a time tracking system that can accurately record the total number of hours each employee worked. Non-exempt employees should report their total time worked every week too (and be paid for that time). From the employer’s perspective, they receive data of every hour worked from every employee (exempt and non-exempt). For the employee, they keep an active time sheet that they can update and revise throughout the week. At the end of every week, they can share this information with a supervisor and ensure the company is aware of the total time they worked each week (and the exact amount to be paid for this work). 

Capping the Total Hours

Employers that shift to telework may not take into account how much in additional expenses they may end up paying when they include overtime pay for their non-exempt hourly employees. To combat this issue, they can create company policies that restrict overtime hours for all employees, including hourly employees. This company policy should help motivate their workers to stay at 40 hours each week. From the non-exempt employee’s perspective, they will still be compensated for every hour they work (even if a company policy is in place), but they at least know that the company prefers they don’t exceed 40 hours, so they will try not to do so without the employer’s approval.  

Speak With Management-Level Employees

Employers should communicate with their management level employees about these policies, and if an hourly employee is regularly exceeding 40 hours in a workweek, they can address it with them. For example, an hourly employee can be asked not to work “off the clock” hours without the manager’s permission. Again, this can help reduce the likelihood of an hourly employee working overtime, but they still will be owed overtime for any additional hours they work. From the employee’s perspective, they at least know that the company prefers them not to exceed 40 hours in a workweek and can discuss the issue with their manager.  

Employers should consider sharing a telework policy with their workforce to ensure that everyone is on the same page and clearly understands their expected weekly hours and timekeeping tasks, among other procedures. If an hourly employee projects that they will exceed 40 hours in a week, it’s best to notify the company in advance. If you do exceed 40 hours in a workweek and the employer points to a company policy or says they only pay a fixed 40 hour rate, consult our Tampa wage and hour attorneys.

If you would like to speak with a Tampa wage and hour attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.