What was thought to be a temporary coronavirus safety measure has now become a serious long-term consideration for many businesses that have employees working from home.
With almost a year of employers and employees experiencing the many benefits of working remotely, companies of all sizes—from small nonprofits to large corporations—say some percentage of their workforce will likely remain remote even after the pandemic is over.
Additionally, businesses across the nation realized the leverage they gained when hiring remote employees. Whether located in big cities, rural areas, or small towns, companies across the country are now able to access and attract a pool of top-quality applicants no matter where they reside.
While it may seem like a good economic idea to keep and recruit employees who can and wish to continue to work from home, it is critical for employers to review and understand the many state and local laws that will apply to each remote employee’s location.
Important state-by-state issues a business must consider when hiring remote employees:
- Sick Leave. States and municipalities across the country have enacted mandatory paid sick leave laws. These laws apply to all employees working in the state, county, or city. An employer’s paid time off policy generally will comply with the paid sick leave law if it includes a specified minimum level of benefits. Employers should notify employees by including this information on all states in their employee manual.
- Family and Medical Leave. At latest count, nine states and the District of Columbia have also enacted mandatory paid family and medical leave laws that apply to all part-time and full-time employees working in the state or district. The leave programs differ in the amount of leave that must be provided, benefits, eligibility requirements, required notices, and how the programs are funded. Employers should review these laws if applicable and ensure their leave policies comply.
- Pay History and Criminal Background Checks. If recruiting widely, employers should ensure they are complying with the many new laws limiting or prohibiting inquiries into an applicant’s pay history or criminal background. Inquiring into pay history and/or criminal background may unnecessarily limit the applicant pool and hinder efforts to create a more inclusive workplace culture.
- General Employment. Each state enacts its own general employment laws covering, for example, minimum wage, other wage and hour requirements, workplace safety, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and anti-discrimination. Employers should review these laws and ensure their employee handbook, policies, trainings, and practices are in compliance.
- Drug Testing. These laws vary in each state—some with strict policy and process requirements and some where the laws are more lenient. Employers who require drug tests should take into consideration whether the recreational and/or medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized in the state where the employee works. Over 30 states and municipalities have legalized marijuana in some form.
- Anti-Harassment Training. At least six states require employers to provide anti-harassment training to employees and supervisors working in their state. Other states encourage, but do not require, anti-harassment training.
- Business Expenses. With employees working from home, employers should review their business expense policies for compliance with the laws of the state in which employees work.
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