Guest post by Natasha Bowman JD, SPHR, aka the Workplace Doctor, founder and CEO of Performance Renew and the author of You Can't Do That at Work: 100 Legal Mistakes Managers Make in the Workplace.
Employing a remote workforce can bring enormous benefits to an organization, like expanding attracting top talent and saving on overhead expenses that usually accompany a location-dependent workforce. But employing remote workers also comes with its own set of legal implications that remote leaders need to consider. Each of these legal issues could be a potential liability for your company.
Make sure that you work through the proper channels to ensure that each issue is properly and adequately addressed in your:
With a remote workforce, all communication takes place in a decentralized environment. Privacy and security of your business’ information should be at the top of your list of concerns—just think of all the sensitive information your employees have access to and submit over wireless networks: passwords, email addresses, personal identifying information, phone numbers, addresses, proprietary information, financial data, communication about customers and employees. This is just a short list of the kinds of information that is sent by and to your employees.
A couple of the biggest recent data breaches involved hackers getting access to sensitive personal information of customers (e.g. Equifax) — you don’t want your organization to be another example!
Make sure that everyone in your organization—including those who work from home—understand your privacy and security policies. And of course, it’s up to organizational leadership to make sure there are systems in place for making sure those policies are enforced by everyone in the organization. Here are Ten Steps to a Successful Security Policy from Computer World.
Things To Do:
If you have remote workers in multiple states, you need to make sure you are paying everyone according to the laws in those states. You and your payroll provider should know, at minimum, the following information in order to comply with each state’s regulations:
Similar to hiring employees from different states, if you hire workers that live in different countries you need to comply with the employment and labor laws in those locations.
Depending on your situation and what country your employee lives in, your organization may or may not have to register in that country.
Just because remote workers are not physically present at one central workplace, does not mean that your organization does not have to comply with health and safety legislation. It’s up to the employer to identify any potential hazards that may come with remote work.
Additionally, employers are responsible for implementing measures to control and mitigate risk. Employers can accomplish this by reviewing hazards with employees to ensure that risks and control measures are adequate. They can also establish a system for reporting and investigating injuries, illness, or other incidents that can occur because of work activities.
Remote workers are responsible for taking care of their own health and safety by complying with the policies set forth by the employer. Additionally, they should report any hazards or issues as soon as possible following the employer’s reporting procedures.
A reminder that simple job postings and interviews can put you at risk for legal ramifications—even for remote employees. In your job postings, beware of language that implies that a certain type of protected class of people will not be considered. An example of this is stating that you are looking for candidates who are young and active on social media.
There should be at least one person in your organization to take charge of the legal issues surrounding your workforce. This individual (or better yet, department) should have proven experience in addressing these issues for a remote workforce. Additionally, they should have the drive to seek out solutions for new potential problems that arise.
For more tips on legal issues that impact the workplace, check out my book, You Can’t Do That at Work: 100 Legal Mistakes that Managers Make in the Workplace
Thanks to Natasha for sharing her expertise and insights!
If you're interested in more background and additional issues that specifically remote teams face get started with the complimentary first module of our Goplaceless program.