Geonetta & Frucht, LLP
By: Geonetta & Frucht, LLP

What Are the Benefits and Downfalls of Remote Work?

Remote work, telework, and telecommuting became popular and heavily relied upon during the COVID-19 pandemic. And even as we begin to get back to normal, there are still many office workers who opt to remain in remote working situations because of a personal preference or an inability to get into the office.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to remote working or telecommuting in California. Remote work offers employees increased flexibility, reduced (or no) commuting to work, and the potential to create a better work-life balance.

However, there are also challenges, such as remaining in constant communication, maintaining the same levels of productivity, and holding oneself to a work routine that supports a healthy work-life balance. Also, there are a number of labor laws that must be adhered to in order for everything to remain legal and upstanding.

What is ‘At-Will Employment?’

California is an at-will employment state, and this applies to those who work in the office or work remotely. An at-will employment state implies that an employer has the right to hire new employees, fire workers, demote, promote, or change employee’s job descriptions without cause. Similarly, employees have the right to quit their jobs without providing a cause.

It is unlawful, however, for employers to fire employees on the basis of various protected personal traits such as race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and more.

As a remote worker, you must occasionally review your employment contract. If you believe that your employer has altered the details of your employment contract without first consulting with you, you may wish to speak with an experienced employment attorney at our firm.

Is Working from Home the Same Thing as Being an Independent Contractor?

Remote work is not the same thing as being considered an independent contractor in California. Being an independent contractor means that the worker takes on companies as their clients, sends work bills to those clients themselves, and pays their own payroll taxes. California employers cannot designate their employees as independent contractors without affording them the benefits of such a working arrangement, such as additional job flexibility and scheduling freedom.

If you are working remotely, ensure that your job designation is correct for the responsibilities you carry. If your employer has switched your employment to that of an independent contractor without changing the expectations of your job, you may have the right to take legal action against your employer. Employers who list their employees as independent contractors do this to avoid having to pay certain benefits and obligations to those employees.

Are Remote Workers Protected by California Labor Laws?

Yes, California remote workers are protected by the same labor laws that cover other in-office workers. This also applies to out-of-state workers and those working outside of the United States for a California company.

There are certain rules that California employers must adhere to in relation to remote workers. These rules include ensuring that their workers can complete their job assignments independently of going into the office, that the employment adheres to state employment laws, and that they provide legally mandated breaks for their remote workers. Additionally, if the job requires it, employers are required to reimburse their employees for necessary expenses associated with remote work, which may include Internet fees, Wi-Fi, computers, and other services or equipment needed to maintain function as a remote worker.

What California Labor Laws Pertain to Remote Workers?

Remote workers have the same rights as those who work in person, though sometimes these rights may be less relevant to your work and your employment experience. For example, a remote employee is protected against wrongful termination, discrimination, wage and hour disputes, and other employment law legal matters that may arise between an employee and their employer.

Reimbursement of business expenses, employment contracts that are fair, wage and hour laws, safe work environments, workers’ compensation benefits, data privacy, tax laws, and other employment laws all apply to remote employees.

Are There Any New Provisions for Remote Workers in CA?

As remote work has become more prevalent in recent years, California has implemented new employment laws and regulations that address remote employment. Both employers and employees must stay informed about these recent changes to ensure that their rights and interests are properly protected.

As of January 1, 2023, California’s minimum wage for all employees increased to $15.50. In Los Angeles and certain other cities, the minimum wage is even higher. If your employer is paying you less than minimum wage because you are a remote worker, they may be in violation of the law. Contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your case immediately.

In early 2022, the state introduced a new paid sick leave law that expands access to sick leave for employees affected by COVID-19. The law also affects workers who are forced to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19 infections.

To ensure that remote workers get all the required notices that all other employees receive, another law was recently enacted. This new law requires that employers send important postings and notices electronically to remote employees. Remote workers should have the same information about their place of employment as any in-person employee.

Another recent employment law states that California employers with 15 or more employees must list their salary ranges publicly.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation Today

As we start to get back to some kind of ‘normal,’ offices are beginning to reopen, and remote work is becoming less of a necessity. Despite that, many employees still prefer to work remotely, and still others must do so in order to continue doing their jobs. If you are a remote worker, you must know you are protected by the same labor laws that apply to other California employees. If you believe that your employer has violated any of your labor law protections, contact our law firm to discuss your case in more detail.

You may reach our Oakland law office at 510-254-3777. Alternatively, you may get in touch with our San Francisco law offices at 415-433-4589.

Geonetta & Frucht, LLP
By: Geonetta & Frucht, LLP