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Consider these issues before allowing telecommuting

The internet has transformed the way that people work. In many jobs, it's not really necessary to have an employee tied to the office.

But is offering "telecommuting" a good idea for your business?

Maybe. Consider these issues first:

Privacy rules

If you allow employees to work at home, you still need to make sure that any intellectual property or sensitive data is covered under a nondisclosure agreement. In addition, make sure that your employee understands that his or her computer is still subject to company rules about remote monitoring.

Secure servers

As an employer, you're still liable if any of your customers' information is compromised -- so make sure that you insist on the use of a secure server by your long-distance employee. In addition, make certain that the employee understands that no personal electronic devices are to be run off the server at any time.

Liability problems

One of the biggest problems facing the employers of telecommuters is liability for work-related injuries. Home offices are generally considered workplace extensions for the purposes of workers' compensation. Make sure that you have policies in place that allow for access to the worker's home to inspect for safety and investigate any accidents.

Reasonable accommodation

Work-from-home options are sometimes seen as reasonable accommodations for disabilities through the lens of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Make sure that you consider this when evaluating an employee's request for a telecommuting position.

Wage and hour laws

Wage and hour laws can be tricky with telecommuting positions. While most of your work-at-home job positions would probably go to salaried employees, you need to make certain that you don't fail to pay overtime if it's due. Hours also need to be kept the same as they were before the telecommuting started. Remember that wage and hour laws don't change just because an employee has started working from home.

The best way to avoid employment litigation is to be prepared in advance. You do that by making sure that you've considered all of the potential pitfalls -- and planning around them. Telecommuting can often benefit both employees and employers -- but employers need to put written policies in place in order to avoid ending up in court.

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