If your remote employees live in the state where your business is located, you must follow federal employment laws plus your state's employment rules. But if your remote employees live in a different state from where you conduct business, you must comply with federal employment laws plus the labor laws for each state in which your employees reside. This applies to all areas of employment, including hiring, performance management, payroll and employee benefits.
When hiring remote employees, you must consider all laws affecting the recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes. Among them are federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Note that many states have their own anti-discrimination laws, and some jurisdictions prohibit employers from requesting that applicants disclose their salary history.
In addition, employers must conduct employment eligibility verification via Form I-9 and perform new hire reporting with the state.
Managing a remote team is considerably different from managing an on-site team. With remote employees, you cannot walk over to their desks to chat or have in-person meetings with them.
Without proper support, your remote team can easily become disengaged. And if you're not careful, you could find yourself forgetting essential duties, such as tracking their time worked and staying abreast of PTO requests.
Below are suggestions for avoiding these pitfalls and attaining an engaged remote team:
- Set clear expectations, upfront, with each team member.
- Let them know whom to contact if they have questions. Have a system in place that promptly addresses their concerns.
- Build a rapport with each team member. Encourage their input on matters affecting their work or the team.
- Offer regular feedback via one-on-one meetings using Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or another video conferencing platform.
- Help them fulfill their career goals by fairly evaluating their performance, developing action plans for improvement and rewarding high performance.
- Utilize technology that simplifies timekeeping and leave of absence administration.
Payroll and Benefits
Like on-site employees, remote employees are subject to federal and state payroll laws plus applicable employee benefits regulations. These laws relate to:
- Minimum wage
- Exempt employees
- Tax withholding
- Paycheck deductions
- Payday frequency
- Final wages
- Breaks and meal periods
- Workers' compensation
- Unemployment insurance
- Paid and unpaid time off
- Voluntary benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans
- Record keeping
Health and Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stated in the past that it does not perform inspections of employees' home offices and that employers are generally not responsible for home-based safety issues. This is a gray area. Therefore, employers with remote employees should obtain legal advice regarding health and safety.
Other complex areas that may require legal counsel include when employees work both remotely and on-site, when employees work in a different country and when an employer terminates a remote employee.