Will work-from-home policies make room for companies to engage in unethical practices?

When coronavirus cases began surging in the United States in March 2020, many employers mandated that office workers begin working remotely from home. Now, more than a year later, some Milwaukee employers still have large portions of their workforce working from home. Some have postponed workers returning to the office until summer or next fall.

During this time, employers and employees haven’t always had daily interactions. As a result of less in-person interaction, does that mean companies may more easily engage in unethical practices?

When work and home life boundaries blur

One possible unethical practice employers may take advantage of with remote workers is pushing them to be on call more often. Employers may require remote workers to respond to emails way beyond standard business hours. As a result, if you are an hourly employee, you may work more than 40 hours a week if you need to log on in the evenings to answer emails. However, any work hourly employees complete beyond 40 hours in a seven day week is eligible for overtime pay.

Another possible problem that may arise with continued remote working is employers pushing to monitor employees’ productivity more. Some employers already measure worker productivity through various software, but the concern is that employers might install new tracking measures without an employee’s knowledge. Employers could track an employee’s company phone through GPS to make sure they are at home or activate a company laptop’s camera without someone’s knowledge. What would happen if an employee discovered this kind of surveillance?

Finally, employers may become very scrutinizing if someone suffers a workplace injury or needs long-term disability pay. Because employers don’t see a remote employee’s limitations, that could lead to problems if an employer disputes how serious your workplace injury or ongoing disability is.

Missing out on watercooler news

Over this last year, employees have missed out on personal connection with their co-workers too. You may not realize what news you are missing out on at the company watercooler. You might not realize that you didn’t receive notice of promotion opportunity (maybe because you are pregnant) or you didn’t receive important training because of your age. These are not only unethical practices by an employer, they are illegal. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bans employers from discriminating against an employee because of their:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender (including if an employee is pregnant)
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Disability

If you feel your employer has engaged in unethical or illegal practices because you are working at home, you should consult Alan C. Olson & Associates. Our firm helps employees get proper overtime pay, avoid workplace discrimination and more.

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