Telecommuting is a popular option that has gone mainstream due to the recent coronavirus pandemic. Many companies are happy to hire remote workers because they gain access to a larger pool of talented applicants. Fortunately, a lot of white-collar work can be done using only a computer, so telecommuting is a logical step for companies to take.
However, workers still have many important rights that can be violated even if they are not in the office. At Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP, we work with men and women who have suffered discrimination, harassment, or another violation of their rights. Contact us for more information.
Working from Home Laws in New Jersey
Unlawful sex discrimination might take place when, for example, an employer only allows mothers to work from home but not fathers. An employer might also use a protected category like race or age when deciding who can work from home. As an example, an employer probably cannot allow only workers 60 and older work from home if younger workers could also perform the job.
Disability & Reasonable Accommodation
Generally, employers are not required to give workers a telecommuting option. However, in some situations, it might be necessary to make a reasonable accommodation due to disability. If a worker could have suffered a back injury that prevents her from coming into work, then telecommuting might allow her to continue to work. If she can still perform the essential functions of the job remotely, then an employer might have to offer that option.
Other, more permanent, disabilities might also come into play. Someone could struggle with agoraphobia—fear of leaving the home. If this person can perform the job remotely, an employer cannot use the disability as a reason not to hire the person or to fire them. Of course, employers do not have to make any accommodation that creates more than a minimal hardship.
Religion & Reasonable Accommodations
Employers also must make accommodations if an employee has a religious reason why they need to work from home. For example, some faith traditions have holy days that fall on workdays. As with disability, employers are not required to automatically approve the request but probably must do so unless it poses an undue hardship.
Employee Privacy & Telecommuting
New Jersey does not have strong protections for employee privacy. An employer can monitor and read any communication made from an employer-owned device, for example. The lack of privacy protections can come into play with remote work if you use your employer’s computer or cell phone while working from home.
Ideally, workers will not use the employer’s devices to send personal emails, do online shopping, or watch Netflix. This information will not be kept private. Instead, you should use your employer’s computer solely for work and then use your own on breaks to do personal communication.
Speak with a New Jersey Employment Attorney
Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP stays on the cutting edge of changes in employment law. If you have a question regarding working from home, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation.