Telecommuting Employees and Unauthorized Overtime – Must the Employer Pay?
In today’s ever-increasing digital world, more employers than ever are turning to telecommuting to help reduce overheard and increase morale of employees. Importantly, however, state and federal laws apply equally to employers and employees, regardless of whether they work on-site or remotely. Among the most common issues and missteps which affect employers with telecommuting employees are wage and hour laws and, more specifically, overtime laws.
All non-exempt employees must be paid for all time worked, regardless of whether the work was performed on-site or remotely. Importantly, this rule typically applies regardless of whether the employer authorized the performance of the work or not. If, for instance, an employee works more than 40 hours per week at home, the employer must pay the employee overtime wages for all time worked – even if the employer did not authorize the employee to work overtime.
As a result, it is imperative that the employer have a lawful and enforceable policy with respect to overtime, particularly suitable for employees who work remotely. Such a policy should be clear that any overtime must be authorized in writing, and that any overtime worked without authorization will subject the employee to disciplinary action. Note, however, that if an employee violates this policy by working overtime, that employee remains entitled to receive overtime wages, but an employer should determine whether to retain an employee who consistently violates company policy.
Before approving any telecommuting policy, an employer should take care to ensure that its policy is not only lawful, but also enforceable. While telecommuting may be the solution to many employment-related issues, it is only as effective as the policies which govern telecommuting employees.