What Is Appropriate Behavior When Working Remotely?
By C. Margaret Tritch
Now more than ever, an employer should have an employee handbook, company manual and/or company policies (“Employer Policy”) and review them in light of the remote working environment. Employees need to read those lengthy manuals and emails of “new company policy” and understand that they govern their behavior whether they are in the office or working from home. In fact, the Employer’s Policy governs whenever the employee is working or representing the company. This can be extended to a lot of circumstances that employees do not think of as working or being on the clock.
If an employee’s behavior has a negative impact on the company’s brand or goodwill, the company needs to take action. The employee may feel that they have a right to have their home in whatever manner they wish, but this is not the case when you are working from home. Issues have arisen that can be funny and embarrassing, people standing up and they are wearing their underwear with business clothes just on the top. Or they can be innocuous like there is so much background noise in the person’s home that the customer’s experience is off-putting and reflects poorly on the company. Issues can occur when the home is visible through a video call and it is messy or contains wall hangings or decorations that are offensive to some, in poor taste, or simply not in keeping with the company’s brand, mission statement, or policies. The employee can be required to adapt their home to reflect the work environment that the company wishes to present. This should be spelled out in the Employer Policy to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.
Private employers have the right to have a policy limiting political speech of their employees while engaged in work for the company. The First Amendment’s right to free speech applies only to government workers. Several participants in the Capitol riots this year, were fired shortly afterwards from their private employer jobs. The employees were likely surprised at how their day off from work resulted in their firing.
With the extension of working remotely and social media, employers should think carefully about reviewing and revising their Employer Policy on staff conduct (employee or independent contractor). Organizing training sessions and requiring all employees to confirm that they have read the current policies and will abide by them is also important. Alternatively, employees should think more broadly about how their work environment at home and their behavior whether in the office or outside of the office may impact the company or be viewed negatively by their employer. With a tight labor market, the employer also needs to balance how strict their Employer Policy is. If too restrictive it may deter employees form joining the company and choosing a different company.
Black, Joshua. “Employment Law and the Shift Toward Remote Working.”
Arizona Attorney Magazine, no. January, 2021, pp. 28–29, www.azattorneymag-digital.com/azattorneymag/202101.
Disclaimer – This article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice to anyone. If you require advice, you should reach out to our firm or another lawfirm to discuss your facts and circumstances to obtain legal advice.