Working From Home Laws in California

Remote work has become increasingly popular in the United States. Due to increased flexibility and the increasing costs of child care, more people are choosing to work from home to raise families or simply to enjoy the perks of working without leaving the home. However, each state sets different rules regarding employment and working remotely. What are the rules in California?

Remote Work in California

Regardless of the nature of employment, every state in the Union, with the exception of Montana, follows an “at-will” rule. This means that an employer can demote, terminate, or dock pay at any time, for virtually any reason (the common exceptions are for disability or health status and any other discriminatory factor).

It’s important to note that working remotely is not the same as being an independent contractor. While some independent contractors work from home, many are employees. As such, employers must offer the same benefits as those California law requires. For example, remote workers must have paid time off, health benefits, paid lunch, and more.

Disabilities and Work at Home Arrangements

In many cases, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a division of the federal government, views work at home arrangements as a reasonable accommodation. Under federal anti-discrimination laws, employers must make reasonable accommodations that allow disabled workers to do their jobs like their peers.

Legal Concerns and Telecommuting

Remote work isn’t without its legal implications. Firstly, employers must establish a telecommuting policy, particularly for hourly employees. This policy must explicitly outline what qualifies as “work” and offer guidance about keeping records. The Fair Labor and Standards Act, a federal statute, governs much of the work that employees do, whether salaried or hourly. However, this statute contains no clear definition of “work.” As a result, the Department of Labor recommends that employers:

  • Create a comprehensive telecommuting policy that’s unique to each position.
  • Communicate the policy to each employee and ensure they understand their respective roles.
  • Have an employee agree to the terms and expectations in writing.
  • Create a mutually agreed upon plan for record-keeping and logging hours worked.

One of the more pertinent rules should concern overtime. When an employee works more than 40 hours per week at a regular office, it’s easier for a supervisor to notice. However, work at home employees may be working in excess of 40 hours per week and the employer may be unaware that he or she is working overtime. In most cases, the law entitles an employee to overtime benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act when he or she works more than 40 hours per week. Specifically, California law also requires employers to pay daily overtime when they work in excess of eight hours. Even if an employer offered 4-ten hour shift as opposed to eight hour shifts, he or she must pay eight hours of overtime.

Business Expenses and Tax Considerations

Lastly, California law requires employers to reimburse employees for all business related expenses. Employees can create remote workstations that the employer must reimburse – examples may include better computer equipment and even ongoing fees for Wi-Fi. Employees who work remotely in California may also be eligible for tax deductions or credits.

Working remotely is legal in California, and it carries unique considerations. Both the employer and employee should be clear about expectations and develop a mutually agreed upon system for record-keeping and hours worked. Employers should also consider California specific rules with regard to overtime and reimbursement for home office costs. When both parties follow this plan, the arrangement can run smoothly for everyone involved. Be sure to contact our employment lawyers if you have any questions regarding the legality of working from home.