As the modern workforce evolves, more and more employees are enjoying the flexibility of working from home, teleworking, or working away from the employer’s premises. These arrangements allow for greater work-life balance, increased productivity, and cost savings. However, as these teleworking arrangements become more common, it is important for both employers and employees to understand the protections and rights available under the law.
On February 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (Bulletin) addressing several questions related to compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when a business employs teleworkers. While Field Assistance Bulletins do not have the effect of law, they are nonetheless important statements of DOL policy and statutory interpretation.
The Bulletin explains that under the FLSA, employees who telework are entitled to compensation for all hours worked, including short rest breaks. In qualifying circumstances, employees are also entitled to take breaks to express breast milk free from intrusion and shielded from view. The Bulletin provides that the protections under the FLSA apply equally to employees who telework as to employees working at an office, factory, construction site, retail outlet, or any other worksite location. This means that teleworking employees are entitled to the same compensation and protection as employees working at a traditional worksite.
Similarly, under the FMLA, all hours worked are counted for purposes of determining an employee’s eligibility for leave. The Bulletin provides that when an employee teleworks from home consistently or in combination with working at another or various worksites, all of those hours count towards determining eligibility for FMLA leave. However, the determination of the worksite for an employee who teleworks is fact-specific and will be based on factors such as where the employee reports to work or the location where the employee’s assignments are made.
In conclusion, teleworking arrangements provide numerous benefits to both employees and employers. However, it is important to remember that these arrangements do not exempt employees from the protections and rights afforded to them by the FLSA and FMLA. While the Bulletin doesn’t have the force of law, it’s an important indicator of DOL policy regarding FLSA and FMLA enforcement. Employers and employees must be mindful of the protections and rights the DOL describes are due to telework employees to ensure that teleworking arrangements are fair and equitable for all parties involved.
For questions or assistance, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.
This alert serves as a general summary, and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.