When web work creates legal headaches

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Permitting telecommuting, we’ve reported before, can create both interstate and international tax worries for companies and employees, but can it cause legal complications as well? It’s not the sexiest question to ponder concerning a location-independent work style (who wouldn’t prefer daydreaming about opening the laptop at the local park or attending that conference call in your slippers?), but it’s an important one for managers nonetheless.

It’s also an issue the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Lexology site tackled recently (registration required) examining a number of ways firms can get into legal hot water by permitting virtual working. Trouble spots in the legal code, according to the article, include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act. Before allowing some employees to telecommute, firms should realize the move may open up the argument that working from home is a reasonable accommodation for disabled employees as well.
  • Workers’ compensation coverage. If a telecommuter gets injured at home, are they covered under workers’ comp? This can be a tricky question and as the article points out, “in one US State it was held that a telecommuter who injured himself while salting his driveway against the snow was entitled to compensation.”
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970. Home-based employees are covered just like office-based ones and employers can face fines if telecommuters’ home offices aren’t up to snuff.

If you’re concerned about how these legal issues might impact your business, check out the article in full for more details.

Has your virtual work policy caused any legal headaches for your firm?

Image courtesy Flickr user steakpinball

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I would say that employee protection laws in the western world expanded to such a degree, that it makes employment an incredibly unattractive proposition for employers. I’m originally from Europe, and I know of at least one mayor car-maker that takes every possible measure to make sure that most of the workers are not employees, but contractors. Even though that’s not too easy either. Overprotective employment laws are one of the things that really choke business in the West and we may come to regret them bitterly in a generation.

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