Working from Home: Sidebar on Legal Issues for Nonprofits

Take these guidelines into consideration when adopting alternative work arrangements for your staff.

Working from Home: Sidebar on Legal Issues for Nonprofits
3 mins read

Out-of-sight should not mean out-of-mind for remote nonprofit workers.

This sidebar article accompanies Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Do Them Right.

While Rita [the pseudonym for attorneys Ellen Aldridge and Pamela Fyfe of Nonprofits Insurance Alliance] wholly agrees that alternative work arrangements are a great recruitment and retention tool for Nonprofits, compliance with employment laws cannot be ignored: out-of-sight should not mean out-of-mind.

Accurately track time of non-exempt employees.

Under state laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, hours worked must be accurately tracked for employees who do not meet the requirements for exemption from those laws. To avoid these situations, many employers only allow exempt employees to telecommute. However, it is possible to allow telecommuting of non-exempt employees if certain safeguards are maintained:

Track hours worked for each day worked.

If your state requires unpaid meal periods or breaks those should be tracked as well.

Have a mechanism for verifying hours worked

Possibly requiring an email or phone call at the beginning and/or end of each work period.

Require any overtime to be authorized in writing, in advance.

Tell non-exempt employees that they are not to work outside scheduled hours, and if you see an 11 p.m. work email, immediately inform the employee that this is not authorized and could jeopardize their telecommuting arrangement. Any time spent emailing or texting is considered work time and must be paid for non-exempt employees.

Ensure a safe workplace.

OSHA safety rules and regulations apply to all workplaces, including the home office. Take steps to ensure the employee maintains a safe workplace, including compliance with ergonomic standards. Ensure the employee complies with your anti-harassment policy and reports any violations.

Do not allow business visitors access to telecommuting locations, and reserve the right to inspect the workspace to ensure there is compliance with agency policy. If an injury occurs to a telecommuting employee, follow the standard workers’ compensation injury reporting procedures.

Ensure proper use of digital communication devices.

All employers should have a policy regarding the proper use of communication devices to ensure that security, confidentiality and non-discrimination policies are followed. Employers should take steps to enforce these policies for telecommuters, including informing employees that per its policy the nonprofit may gain access to data stored on home computers.

Specify if the employee has to install anti-virus software and establish clear security protocols for access to agency servers.

See also: 

Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Do Them Right

About the Author

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Pamela Fyfe is an Employment Risk Manager for the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance. In her position she helps nonprofits avoid potential employment claims and reduce the possibility of future claims. Before joining the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, she practiced employment law for more than 25 years — representing management in wrongful termination, discrimination and sexual harassment cases. She admits to possibly having sneaked online at work to see her first grandchild — Mara Adeline — who lives in London.

Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.

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