An Employer’s Right to Eliminate Telecommuting for Workers

Can an Employer Terminate Workers Who Refuse to Work Onsite?

The practice of telecommuting or working from home, which had been gradually getting traction over the past couple decades, exploded during the COVID pandemic, with the number of people working remotely tripling in early 2020, from just under 10 million to nearly 30 million.

In the post-pandemic world, some employers have found remote workers to provide a significant benefit, but many others have demanded that employees return to a physical office, plant or other facility. Though the public health concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic seem to be a thing of the past, there are regularly new strains of COVID, as well as other health concerns, all of which may be increased when working in proximity with others. Can a remote worker refuse to work onsite? If so, under what circumstances? What are an employer’s rights with respect to where an employee performs his or her job?

Must an Employer Allow Employees to Work from Home?

Generally speaking, there is nothing in the law that requires an employer to allow an employee to work remotely. Employers have the right to decide whether they want workers onsite, but must typically communicate that requirement to workers before they are hired. Furthermore, an employer may allow some employees to work from while mandating that other workers come into the office or workplace. The employer also has the right to establish the criteria for telecommuting.

Can an Employer Violate the Law by Requiring that an Employee Work Onsite?

There are situations where an employer may run afoul of the law by refusing to allow a worker to telecommute:

  • Where the employer cannot reasonably accommodate an employee covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Where allowing some workers to telecommute and prohibiting others constitutes illegal discrimination or retaliatory conduct

Let Stephen Hans & Associates Handle Your Employment Law Concerns

At Stephen Hans & Associates, our attorneys are glad to answer your questions and provide legal advice. Years of experience have provided us with extensive knowledge regarding employment law. We have successfully represented many employers throughout the greater New York City area in litigation involving workplace disputes. Our offices are conveniently located in Long Island City with easy access from Manhattan.