With so many businesses being forced to operate virtually due to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important to note that when it comes to working from home, not all employees are created equal.  Having non-exempt employees telecommute presents a unique set of challenges as it relates to ensuring that you are paying them appropriately for all compensable time as is required by law.  Here are 3 tips that can help employers mitigate their risks to some of the wage and hour violations that can result from having non-exempt employees telecommute.

1. Have a clear telecommuting policy

The first step in reducing a business’ exposure to off-the-clock and overtime claims is having a written telecommuting policy that employees acknowledge in writing.  The policy should spell out important remote work parameters such as: the fixed hours the employee is expected to work; requirements related to seeking approval prior to working overtime; the manner in which employees are required to record their work time; and a clear statement that employees who telecommute continue to be responsible for complying with all employer policies and procedures. It is also a good idea to have a COVID-19 pandemic specific provision that makes it clear that the current policy application to jobs that would not otherwise be eligible for remote work consideration is temporary and that the company will provide updates as needed. 

2. Implement, Communicate & Strictly Enforce a Time & Attendance Policy

A time and attendance policy is key to effectively enforcing established time-keeping procedures.  Because Federal & State law require that non-exempt employees be compensated for ALL time spent working, it is vital that Employers provide clear guidance on what constitutes compensable time; how employees should keep track of their time (including meals and rest periods), wrapped up with an explicit statement defining what is considered to be “off the clock” work and how such actions are prohibited.  This will help ensure employees understand the expectations of recording their time while telecommuting and can therefore be held accountable should they fail to adhere to the policy.

3. Have Your Employees Certify Their Time

It’s a good practice to require that your telecommuting non-exempt employees certify the accuracy of their recorded work time each week, and further certify that they did not perform any work “off the clock” during the timekeeping or pay period.  This can help you make corrections before running payroll and document that the employee has confirmed the accuracy of their actual time worked.

Failing to comply with wage and hour regulations can be costly. While we are certainly in  unprecedented times, being proactive in mitigating your business risks to wage and hour violations will help your business be in the best position when the smoke clears and we’re all back to business as usual.