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Paul Zimmerman
pzimmerman@mrllp.com
310.299.5500

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Telecommuting in the Age of Coronavirus

In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and calls for social distancing, more and more companies are having employees work from home in order to limit the spread. Some of these telecommuting decisions have been made voluntarily, while other businesses have been governmentally mandated to limit the number of employees on site. Some counties, like several in California’s Bay Area, have issued “shelter in place” or similar orders, and just this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has commanded non-essential businesses in the state to have 50% of their workforces working from home at any given time.

By virtue of these ever-changing times, many of our clients have asked about how they can properly implement telecommuting routines and, at the same time, maintain electronic communication security. In response, M&R is issuing this suggested work from home policy. Rest assured, we can quickly generate a policy tailored to your specific workplace.

Telecommuting and Electronic Use Policy

For all employees of [INSERT COMPANY] that have been approved for telecommuting, the following policies, which must be understood, acknowledged, agreed upon and adhered to, specify the conditions for performing work on a regular basis from a site other than our [City] oiffice.

Telecommuting

1)   Work hours, meal and rest breaks, overtime compensation, and vacation schedules, shall conform to the Company’s personnel policies and wage and hour law. Requests to work overtime (non-exempt employees only), sick leave, vacation, or other leave must be approved by your manager in the same manner as when working at your regular work site.

2)   Your duties and responsibilities remain the same as when working at the regular work site. Your manager, as always, reserves the right to assign work, as needed, including any assigned work that would be required to be completed at the [City] office.

3)   Employees who are working from home are expected to give notice to the facilitator of any scheduled in-person meeting if they intend to call in to the meeting instead of attending it in the [City] office. There is no such requirement for on-line meetings, and you are expected to attend meetings as invited, using conference calls and/or GoToMeeting or other identified virtual meeting service.

4)   Recognizing that effective communication is essential for this arrangement to be successful, the following methods and times of communicating are agreed upon:

  1. You are expected to provide an honest and accurate accounting of your time either by email to your supervisor or via the established Company software.
  2. You are required to maintain regular communication by phone calls and e-mails at the same level as if you were in the [City] office.

5)   As if you were in the office, you agree to remain accessible during designated work hours.

6)   Regarding space, equipment, furniture and/or supplies purchases, set-up and maintenance, the following is agreed upon, subject to reimbursement as set forth below:

  • Generally, employees will provide their own office furniture and home office space. If the Company does not provide you a cellphone, laptop or desktop computer, you may use your own subject to the electronic use policy below. The Company’s IT group will provide you with technical support and maintenance of these items. If you need to purchase equipment (for example: connecting cables, a computer or a printer), those purchases must be pre-approved by your supervisor and necessary for you to perform your work from home.
  • It is expected that you will provide your own Internet service and phone service. As explained below, the Company will reimburse you for any additional expense in this regard that you incur.
     

7)   You agree to maintain a safe and secure work environment. You further agree to hold the Company harmless for injury to others at your alternate work site. The Company will need, and you agree to provide, electronic and/or physical access to your telecommuting work site for purposes of assessing security requirements, proper operation and maintenance of Company-owned equipment and job performance.

You are solely responsible for ensuring the safety of your alternative work environment. However, because the Company is obligated to provide its employees with a workplace that is free from hazards that might cause serious harm or injury, the Company reserves the right to periodically inspect your home-work space. Any such inspection will be preceded by advance notice and an appointment will be scheduled. Should you suffer an injury at home while engaging in Company business, you may be covered the Company’s Workers’ Compensation insurance. As such, you are required to immediately report any You shall be liable for any injuries that occur to third parties at or around your alternative work environment and, of course, injuries that occur on your property or home while not engaged in Company work will not be a work injury, but may be covered under your homeowner’s or medical insurance policies. 

8)   You agree to use Company-owned equipment, records, and materials for purposes of Company business only, and to protect it against unauthorized or accidental access, use, modification, destruction, or disclosure. You must immediately, or as soon thereafter as practical, report to your manager instances of loss, damage, or unauthorized access at the earliest reasonable opportunity.

9)   To state the obvious, all equipment, records, and materials provided by the Company shall remain the property of the Company. All Company equipment will be returned to the Company for inspection, repair, replacement, or repossession as requested. This must happen as soon as practical upon request.

10) You understand that you are responsible for tax consequences, if any, of this arrangement, and for conformance to any local zoning regulations.

11) You also understand that all your obligations, responsibilities, terms and conditions of employment with the Company remain unchanged, except those obligations and responsibilities specifically addressed in these policies.

Computer, E-mail and Internet Usage

When telecommuting, it is essential that you adhere to proper computer, e-mail and Internet usage in an appropriate, ethical and professional manner. In this regard, you must ensure that your home computer is safe and secure, and preferably used only by you, using our Company log-in. This policy outlines the guidelines for acceptable use of Employer’s technology systems.

  1. Confidentiality and Monitoring

All technology provided to you by the Company, whether in your home or via the Company’s servers, including computer systems, communication networks, company-related work records and other information stored electronically, is the property of Company. In general, use of the Company’s technology systems and electronic communications should be job-related and not for personal convenience. The Company reserves the right to examine, monitor and regulate e-mail and other electronic communications, directories, files and all other content, including Internet use, transmitted by or stored in its technology systems, whether onsite or offsite. Internal and external e-mail, voice mail, text messages and other electronic communications are considered business records and may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation. All employees must be aware of this possibility when communicating electronically within and outside the Company.

  1. Appropriate Use

You are expected to use technology responsibly and productively as necessary to perform your job.  As if you were in the office, Internet access and e-mail use via the Company’s server is for job-related activities; however, minimal personal use is acceptable. 

1)   You certainly may not use the Company Internet, e-mail or other electronic communications to transmit, retrieve or store any communications or other content of a defamatory, discriminatory, harassing or pornographic nature. No messages with derogatory or inflammatory remarks about an individual’s race, age, disability, religion, national origin, physical attributes or sexual preference may be transmitted.

2)   Harassment of any kind is prohibited. Disparaging, abusive, profane or offensive language and any illegal activities—including piracy, cracking, extortion, blackmail, copyright infringement and unauthorized access to any computers on the Internet or e-mail—are forbidden.

3)   Copyrighted materials belonging to entities other than the Company may not be transmitted by you on the Company network without permission of the copyright holder.

4)   You may not use the Company’s computer systems in a way that disrupts its use by others. This includes sending or receiving excessive numbers of large files and spamming (sending unsolicited e-mail to thousands of users).

5)   You are prohibited from downloading software or other program files or online services from the Internet without prior approval from your manager or IT. All files or software should be passed through virus-protection programs prior to use. Failure to detect viruses could result in corruption or damage to files or unauthorized entry into Company systems and networks.

6)   You are responsible for the content of all text, audio, video or image files that you place or send over the Company’s Internet and e-mail systems. No e-mail or other electronic communications may be sent that hide the identity of the sender or represent the sender as someone else. The Company’s corporate identity is attached to all outgoing e-mail communications, which should reflect corporate values and appropriate workplace language and conduct.

Note that violations of the foregoing rules will be grounds for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination.

I have read this policy and understand its terms. If I have any questions about this policy, I understand that I may make inquiry of HR or my supervisor.

                                                                                    __________________________________________________

                                                                                    Employee

M&R Is Here for You

Of course, the foregoing is just a general telecommuting and electronic use policy. Again, if you would like to have one tailored to your specific workplace, or should you have any questions about telecommuting mandates more broadly, please contact Richard Reice, M&R’s labor and employment practice group leader, at rreice@mrllp.com or 203-912-6090.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.