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Legal Issues For Telecommuters

What are my legal responsibilities for a telecommuting employee? Do workers comp rules apply or can or company be held liable for accidents that have occurred in an employees home?


Hey Thomas,

That sure is a great question. Here are a couple things to consider:

- Workplace Safety: The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in February that it will not inspect employees' homes for compliance with federal safety standards, nor expect employers to do so. But don't get too comfortable. Even with OSHA out of the picture, you may not be off the hook for a work-related injury that occurs in your employee's home office.

- To reduce the chances your employees will suffer a work-related injury, educate them about good ergonomic habits. Offer to pay for ergonomically designed equipment, such as telephone headsets and adjustable desk chairs. For ideas on setting up an ergonomic office, check out OSHA'S Website at, and our guide to ergonomics called The Comfort Zone.

Of course always consider information theft as well. As the employer, you are legally responsible for both electronic and paper files related to your business. No matter where it is at.


Hi Thomas,

This is a case where a little bit of organization and planning can go a long way. If you haven't already done so you should consider formalizing your telework plans. By having a telework agreement in place and providing a forum for managers and employees to talk openly about the plan you should be able to avoid such legal issues.

Check out the free resources on my website at which include some sample telework agreements, checklists, and policies.




In addition to the valuable information on the two previous responses to your question also consider the legal liabilities for your company and the personal safety of the employee (and family members in the home) regarding 911 access from the business provided phone.

If the employee is using analog voice service with a service address of their residence this is not as much an issue. If you are providing PBX or VoIP service to the residence for business use be sure to do your homework.

Most systems of this type will provide the core business address (service address) of the PRI trunk termination point to 911 operators. If a 911 call is placed from an employees home using the business phone the incorrect (core business) address is sent to the 911 dispatch center which causes obvious safety and response time issues, not to mention the legal mess afterward.

There are products available (Cisco Emergency Responder for CallManager deployments) that can assist with identifying the location of phones off the core business premise that use the core location for trunking their voice traffic.

A alternative is to block 911 calls for teleworker devices by providing an immediate recording when an emergency call is made stating "911 is not available on this device - please use another phone to make this call." and label the phone as such.

Always educate the end user and document the teleworker 911 policy prior to placement of the phone.

Hope that helps.