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Growth in telecommuting means new employment law challenges

Telecommuting, or working from home, is becoming more and more popular by the year as a way to provide employees with a more flexible work schedule and to help employers save money on office space and other resources. In fact, telecommuting has become so popular that it is being added on as a new benefit for employees faster than any other new benefit. Recent estimates indicate that between 2005 and 2012, telecommuting has increased by 79 percent across the workforce. This makes sense for employers, since studies have shown that telecommuters work longer hours and are more productive than employees who go into the office every day. At the same time, employees who work from home exclusively sometimes struggle to find promotional opportunities.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the average telecommuter works at a large company of more than 100 employees and is around age 49. Most are college-educated and on average their salary is around $58,000 per year. However, those averages do not tell the whole story, since working from home is popular across many demographics.

There are some unique legal issues that arise with telecommuting though, such as how to draw the line between when someone is working and when they are not if they are an hourly employee, for example. Without the proper policies and checks and balances in place, an employee could be vulnerable to wage theft if they are asked to work longer hours than their colleagues who report to a physical office each year. 

Source: New York Times, “It’s Unclearly Defined, but Telecommuting Is Fast on the Rise,” Alina Tugend, March 7, 2014. 

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