Treating Remote Workers Fairly
Avoiding discrimination in remote work arrangements has become increasingly relevant for employers. With the advent of COVID-19, and now the Delta variant, more employees have been working at home. On one hand, remote work solves the problems of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and requiring vaccination.
On the other hand, employers may prefer to have employees available onsite. Onsite work is convenient for face-to-face interaction, training or other related employment activities. However, when does requiring an employee to work onsite evolve into a potential discrimination claim?
EEOC Guidance on Discrimination in Remote Work Arrangements
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that sometimes working from home is a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC bases this guideline with example using the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The example given involved an employee with a request filed through her psychiatrist for permanent remote work arrangements.
To deny the request, the employer would have to show the remote work caused undue hardship for the company. Since many employees have successfully worked from home during the past year of COVID-19 isolation, proving hardship might be difficult. This could be true if the worker requesting permanent home work had performed successfully. Perhaps remote work was also successful for other employees.
To deny the request for telework, an employer would have to show the following:
- An essential function of the job requires in-person performance
- The telework would cause undue company hardship
Ensure Non-Discriminatory Treatment
Keep in mind, protected characteristics require employers to treat employees equally and fairly. Protected characteristics include disability, age, religion or national origin, to name a few.
While you are conducting telework, it is wise also to continue to promoting your business’s policies against discrimination and harassment. Maintaining a safe and respectful work environment will help you avoid discrimination claims.
Do You Have Concerns About Discrimination in Remote Work Arrangements?
If you have questions about your handling discrimination issues as an employer, arrange a consultation with an experienced employment defense lawyer. Call Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. at (718) 275-6500.