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Do You Work From Home? Know Your Rights!

Woman doing remote work in New York, NY.

Nowadays, work stories and frustrations are a little different. Maybe your boss told your colleague they’d be fired if their pet ever appeared in a Zoom call. Or a coworker with less-than-excellent interpersonal communications skills has crippling anxiety that may qualify them for disability accommodations, but they have no idea how to avail the benefits. With much of the workforce working from home, such scenarios are becoming more and more common. 

More recently, working from home (WFH) has become the new norm. From tech giants to auto insurance companies and other companies, many businesses are encouraging their employees to switch from coming into an office in person to working from home.

While WFH looks like the best thing since you can work from the comfort of your home, it comes with plenty of downsides, especially when you are unaware of your rights.

This article will help you explore your rights when working remotely so that you don’t miss out on the employment benefits you deserve and can recognize any type of workplace discrimination.

What Is Work From Home?

Work from home, also known as WFH, remote work, or telework, is a work arrangement that lets employees work from their own homes or other remote locations instead of commuting to a physical office or workplace.

This type of work arrangement has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of modern technology that makes it easier to communicate and collaborate with colleagues from a distance.

What Does Work From Home Involve?

The location and facility for WFH differ from your traditional office routine, however much of your responsibilities will remain the same. Some common activities involved in work-from-home arrangements include:

  • Communicating with colleagues and managers using technology such as email, video conferencing, instant messaging, or project management tools.
  • Completing work tasks, such as writing reports, analyzing data, designing graphics, or developing software, using a computer or other equipment.
  • Participating in virtual meetings or conference calls to collaborate with team members or clients.
  • Managing time effectively, prioritizing tasks, and meeting deadlines
  • Staying organized and productive in a remote environment to perform basic job functions and deal with distractions or interruptions at home

The specific aspects of your WFH routine can vary depending on the employer’s specific policies, but they look similar to the ones mentioned above.

When Did Work From Home Become Popular?

While remote work has been around in some form for decades, the widespread adoption of work-from-home (WFH) arrangements is a more recent trend that has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many companies quickly transitioned to remote work to comply with social distancing guidelines and prevent the spread of the virus.

According to a study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the percentage of people working from home in the United States increased from around 5% before the pandemic to over 40% in the early months of the pandemic.

Furthermore, the advancement in technology also played a significant role in making work from home the new normal for employees and employers. For example, a digital customer service associate, or customer service representative with strong customer service skills, can use technology to field calls and emails from anywhere in the world.

Working from a physical office isn’t necessary anymore.

What Are the Benefits of Working From Home?

The compelling benefits of a work-from-home role are the biggest reason many employees opt for it, without even knowing how it will affect their rights.

Below we’ve compiled some of its advantages that employees claim to experience.

  • Increased Flexibility

Work-from-home and remote work arrangements improve employees’ flexibility to work on their own schedule and in a location that suits them.

Flexibility can lead to a better work-life balance and reduced stress. For example, an employee who is also a parent may appreciate the ability to work from home and manage their work tasks around their family commitments.

  • Reduced Commuting Time

Another significant benefit of remote work is the elimination of a daily commute. Employees can save money by not having to buy gas or train fare. It’ll also reduce the environmental impact of commuting by having people work at home or close to home.

Traveling to the office can also be a source of stress and added fatigue, so eliminating it from your daily routine can lead to increased well-being. Additionally, remote work can help employees to save money on food, as they can prepare meals at home rather than eating out for lunch.

  • Higher Productivity

An average New York, NY employee spends around 35 minutes traveling to their workplace. They spend the same amount of time or even more to reach their homes after work, which makes their days longer and affects overall productivity.

Many employees report that they are more productive when working from home due to increased efficiency and less stress. They may be able to concentrate better and have more control over their work environment, which can lead to fewer distractions and interruptions.

  • Better Quality Sleep

A person’s sleeping pattern depends on several things, but opting to work from home can be an excellent way to get better quality sleep. As there is no need to travel to the office and back home, employees can invest that extra time into improving their sleep regime. An extra half an hour in the morning can make a world of difference.

  • Improved Health and Well-Being

When getting good sleep and reducing stress, a person’s overall health can improve. Remote work can also lead to better mental and physical health outcomes for employees. Being at home might reduce anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues.

If everyone works from home, it can reduce the spread of illness and exposure to germs in the workplace, leading to fewer sick days and a healthier work environment. Additionally, work-from-home jobs can give employees more time to engage in physical activity, healthy eating habits, and other self-care initiatives.

  • More Autonomy

Remote work can provide employees with more control over their work environment and flexible schedule, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and motivation.

Employees can create a workspace that is conducive to their individual needs and preferences, and they can take breaks or schedule personal appointments as needed without worrying about the judgment of coworkers or managers.

  • Access to a Wider Job Market

Opting for remote work gives people access to job opportunities outside of their local area. It can be especially beneficial for individuals living in rural or remote areas or for those with mobility issues.

Employees with caregiving responsibilities get opportunities to pursue employment without having to relocate.

What Are the Downsides of Working From Home?

Work from home definitely can seem like the best way to work as it offers flexibility, reduced stress, and increased productivity. However, it has some downsides, too. It might help increase proficient writing skills, but make it more difficult to develop excellent interpersonal communications skills.

Here are some more of the disadvantages that you must know before choosing to work remotely.

  • It Can Create a Social Isolation

While working remotely saves you from the hassles of traveling and offers the comfort of home, it can be lonely and isolating. You may not have the opportunity to interact with coworkers or clients on a regular basis unless you are in a customer-service-oriented role. The lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, which can have a negative impact on mental health.

  • It Might Lead to Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace isn’t new, and it can also happen when working remotely. The worst part is that you won’t have your colleagues and coworkers around to support you in such a situation, which can make it even more challenging to gather evidence and stand against wrongdoing.

  • You May Be Deprived of Employment Benefits

In many ways, the benefits offered to employees that come to the office are different from those offered to employees that work remotely. It might be as small as office workers getting free breakfast to as big as them receiving more promotions. Unfortunately, most employees working remotely have no idea of the employment benefits they are entitled to and they don’t receive what they legally deserve.

  • Distractions at Home

Work from home can eliminate the distractions of traditional office space, but your home, too, has its own distractions. Your kids, your pets, your daily chores, your laundry, and so on can be fighting for your attention. These things can make it difficult to focus on work tasks and meet the assigned deadlines.

  • Blurred Work-Life Boundaries

Remote work can blur the lines between work and personal life, as you may be tempted to work longer hours or take work-related calls and emails outside of your normal work hours. It can lead to burnout and stress, as well as a feeling of never truly being “off the clock.”

Things You Should Consider Before Choosing to Work Remotely

Do the benefits of working remotely outweigh the disadvantages for you? Before you go ahead and discuss it with your employer, it’s important to review a few things first, such as your employment contract and the benefits you are entitled to receive as a WFH employee.

  • Go Through Your Employment Contract

Before transitioning to work as a remote employee, you must go through your employment agreement to ensure that work from home is allowed. Make sure that there are no restrictions on working outside of the physical premises of your office and there are no additional conditions that need to be met. You can skim through clauses related to location, working hours, and availability to be sure.

By understanding your employer’s expectations regarding remote work, you can be better prepared.

  • Understand Your Medical Insurance

Are you planning to work remotely from a different location than your employer’s office? Make sure to review your medical insurance policy to make sure it covers work-from-home situations.

Sometimes insurance policies provided by employers may have limitations on coverage for medical expenses incurred outside the office premises or your home country. Be sure to thoroughly check your policy. If there are more restrictions, it’s important to explore additional coverage options if necessary.

Having a thorough understanding of your insurance coverage is crucial to ensuring you are protected in case of an emergency.

  • Learn About the Leaves You Are Entitled to Receive

As an employee, you are eligible for time off of work, whether you work from home or from the office. For example, if you get ill while working from home, you might still be entitled to take sick leave.

Similarly, if an employee needs to take time off to care for a family member, they may be eligible for family and medical leave regardless of the location where they are working remotely.

Review your company’s policies and employment contract to learn your entitlements to leave when working remotely. Some companies may have different policies in place for remote workers, so make sure that you have a clear understanding of your rights and the leaves provided to all remote employees.

What Are Your Rights as a Work-From-Home Employee?

Working remotely from your home doesn’t mean you have no rights. You are still eligible for several employment benefits, and your employer cannot discriminate against you based on any protected characteristics. Below we’ve discussed the rights of WFH employees:

  • Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay

The minimum wage and overtime pay remains the same if you work for a New York employer. If you work in a company with more than 11 employees and are not on salary, your employer must pay you a wage of at least $15 an hour.

Furthermore, remote employees are eligible for overtime pay. According to employment law, the overtime rate is 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

  • Anti-Discrimination Protections

Whether you are a complete work-from-home employee or doing a hybrid model, you’ve got rights that protect you against discrimination. Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on your race, sex, religion, age, disability, and other protected characteristics under state and federal law.

  • Family and Medical Leave

As a remote worker, you are still eligible for leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if you meet certain requirements. According to the law, you have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain medical and family reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or your own serious health condition.

  • Right to Privacy

Privacy is a large concern for WFH employees, and it’s a must for all New York employers to make necessary arrangements to ensure that work is performed in a safe and secure environment. For example, an employer may need to provide work-from-home employees with secure technology and equipment, such as a virtual private network (VPN) or encrypted email, in order to protect confidential company information.

  • Workers’ Compensation

There is a common misconception among employees that worker’s compensation or a comprehensive benefits package only covers employees working from the office. However, according to New York law, remote employees with work-from-home jobs are also eligible for these benefits.

You can claim coverage if you suffer an injury or illness while working from home. The insurance provides benefits such as medical treatment, wage replacement, and disability payments to eligible employees who are injured or become ill while working from home jobs and performing job-related duties.

Want to know more about your rights as a remote employee? Or do you think you aren’t receiving all the employment benefits you deserve? Contact the employment law experts at Levine & Blit! Our attorneys can help you understand your rights and file complaints or lawsuits if your employer has deprived you of benefits.

Our team will work diligently to get the justice you deserve. Dial 212-967-3000 and schedule a Free Case Evaluation with an experienced employment lawyer.

Why Might a Work-From-Home Employee Need an Employment Lawyer?

Whether you work from the office or remotely from home, an employment lawyer can protect your rights. Attorneys can help ensure you receive all the benefits remote employees are eligible for and aren’t discriminated against.

Here’s how an attorney can help protect your rights.

  • They Go Over Your Employment Contract

A WFH employment contract might look different from a regular employment agreement, and you might have difficulties understanding the job details and benefits. An attorney will through the contract to determine if it violates the law and make sure all the benefits are clearly explained.

Sometimes the policies mentioned in the agreements are discriminatory, and lawyers can point out such issues.

  • They Help You File Discrimination Complaints

When you work remotely, it becomes difficult to file complaints against your employer for their wrongdoings, such as retaliation. For example, contacting HR remotely and discreetly can be a challenging task, and you might have to wait for days to receive their response.

Having a qualified employment lawyer by your side means everything will be done the right way and can help move things along.

  • They Make Sure You Receive All Employment Benefits

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights or failed to provide you with the benefits you are entitled to, an attorney can help you file a claim or lawsuit to seek compensation. The lawyers will be able to explain the benefits you should be getting and ensure you’re receiving everything as per the law.

Do You Work From Home and Need an Employment Attorney? Contact Levine & Blit

While working from home brings a large amount of comfort and ease to your life, it can have unique challenges. From negotiating with your employer over the employment contract to filing a lawsuit for discrimination, there are several things an employment lawyer in New York, NY can help you with as a work-from-home employee.

At Levine & Blit, our highly qualified employment attorneys understand all the laws regarding working from home. We will help you understand your rights as a remote employee and provide you with the legal assistance you need to prevent a violation of your rights or get the compensation you deserve.

Call us at 212-967-3000 or reach out online to schedule a Free Case Evaluation with the best employment attorneys in New York!

Contact Levine & Blit, PLLC

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