Work-at-home employees: do you need an agreement?


Work-at-home employees

Technology allows us to do much more from the privacy of our homes than any of us imagined even ten years ago. Instead of the daily commute, workers can merely walk down the halls of their homes. The first question is whether the employer wants to retain an employer-employee relationship or change to one where the employer hires independent contractors.

If the employer-employee relationship is going to be maintained, then employers might wonder if they need to change the expectations for the at-home worker to ensure at-home workers do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as they might if based in the office.

Employment law attorney Ellen Franz said the same letter of employment used for an office-based worker would apply for home-based employees.

That letter describing duties, responsibilities, expectations and pay issues does not have to be a specific document for home-based workers. However, Frantz said home-based workers need to be among the most trustworthy.

Such a letter is different from a contract that establishes length of employment and may modify the at-will nature of the employment relationship. A contract protects employees from being terminated without cause during the term of the agreement. Otherwise, an employer in Wisconsin can let a worker go at any time.

“An employer might not want a contract unless it is for a very valuable person you don’t want to leave the company, especially to work for a competing business,” said Frantz.

Employers may monitor both in-office and work-at-home employees through their computers and other equipment. If the employer owns the equipment, then the company may monitor computer activity, including how it is used and when. In those cases, policies, rather than contracts, may be more appropriate.

Work-at-home employees: do you need an agreement?

Information provided by Ellen Frantz, Partner, Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For an employment lawyer in La Crosse, call her at 608-784-5678. 


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