For Legal Departments, Going Remote Was Hard — But Staying Remote Could Be Harder
Carol Goodman, co-chair of Herrick's Litigation Department and chair of the firm's Employment Practice, was quoted in Corporate Counsel in an article discussing important considerations for employers as they evaluate a more permanent remote-working environment.
Carol noted that some companies are already in the process of adapting their employment policies, while others are taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
"I think there is uncertainty right now as companies are deciding whether it’s more of [a] COVID exception and they just need more time with workers working remotely until it’s safe to return [to the office], or if it’s more permanent. That’s a topic of a lot of discussion and thought right now," she said.
Companies may be undecided, but it’s possible that there are more advantages than not to proactively altering policies to accommodate remote working—especially considering that supervisors can accidentally end up violating state employment laws absent extra guidance the article states. For instance, if a manager is used to contacting a remote employee at home they may think nothing of doing so while that same employee is out on parental leave.
But laws in states like New York prohibit that kind of behavior. "If someone is taking parental leave, they are on leave. And a company would have to resist saying 'I’m going to call that employee,'" Carol said.
The article highlights that other policy revisions can also have long-term benefits regardless of whether or not a company ultimately opts to embrace a permanent remote working setup. Updating sexual harassment polices to include offending remarks made via video calls, email or texts, for example, can only help to protect a company long-term.
"They should make very clear that these [sexual harassment] laws continue to apply and always have applied to remote working," Carol said.
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