It’s time for special work-at-home legislation

by Colin Berkshire

The concept of telecommuting makes a lot of sense. In so many ways it is the right thing for our society to do. But current regulations don’t recognize this.

By allowing people to work from their home they save energy, reduce pollution, and reduce traffic congestion.

Working at home is also good for the worker because they may avoid expensive day-care, commuting costs, and can have more flexible hours. The day care savings are actually enormous for many workers.

So why don’t we do more telecommuting for call center and other jobs? Answer: a morass of regulations get in the way.

When somebody works from home the company becomes liable for the workplace. They must ensure that it meets all OSHA safety standards. They may be required to retro-fit the entire home with ADA ramps and safety equipment. They need special insurance riders. The company even must ensure a harassment-free workplace…so if the spouse engages in a fight the employer may be sued. (Yes, really.)

The biggest risk is that the employee may work more than 40 hours in a week (or more than 8 hours in a day in California or Alaska.) If that happens, the employee is entitled to overtime. But even worse, if the employee “forgets” to report the overtime they can later claim it and be entitled to three times what they would have been paid if they had reported their overtime initially.

Of course, the Unions absolutely hate telecommuting because it brings into place a difficult to organize and difficult to manage flexible and willing workforce.

I would like to see federal employment legislation protecting workers and employers, and that allow companies to hire people to work at home and that make it the worker’s responsibility to properly report their time and to be responsible for providing a suitable workplace.

Telecommuting is a good idea. Let’s nudge it along with some supportive legislation.