In April, many employees throughout California returned to their workplaces. However, many others remain remote even though statewide COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
California employers with employees who work from home must make sure they comply with the state’s employment laws related to teleworking. The following are the three things that employers must be mindful of regarding remote employees.
1.) Wages & Hours
In general, the home office must be treated as a regular office. According to California wage and hour laws, hours worked are defined as “the time during which the employee is subject to the control of the employer.” Therefore, employers must track how much time remote employees who are not exempt from overtime spend on the job, specifically when the worker starts and ends each workday, including all meal periods and overtime hours worked.
Keep in mind that if an employee is working from another state, they must pay taxes to the state where they work (known as the “physical presence” rule). For instance, if the main office is in State A but the remote employee works in State B, under the physical presence rule, the employee must withhold state and unemployment taxes in State B.
2.) Meal & Rest Periods
Remote employees in California are also subject to the state’s meal and rest period requirements. “Non-exempt” workers are entitled to a paid rest period lasting 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked and an unpaid meal break lasting 30 minutes for every 5 hours worked. While tracking when remote employees take their meal and rest periods can be difficult, employers must ensure that these workers comply with the company’s policy.
Under California Labor Section 2802, employers must reimburse workers for “all necessary business expenditures for losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.” Hence, employers may need to reimburse remote workers' cell phone and internet services.
Previous state court decisions have ruled that employers are required to reimburse reasonable portions of an employee’s cell phone use, especially when a worker uses their cell phone for work purposes. However, if an employer provides devices to employees, reimbursement is not necessary. Additionally, if an employee elects to work from home voluntarily, employers may not be required to provide certain reimbursements.