The COVID-19 pandemic forced the labor market to rapidly react to contagion control protocols. For many people, those protocols meant that their work was now being performed at home. This change in setting has begun a broader discussion about working from home, also known as telecommuting.
The sudden shift of millions of workers to working from home has continued to affect people since March 2020. Many employers are now weighing the benefits of using remote workers and entire offices have been depopulated as workers now complete their tasks in the comfort of their own homes.
Now, after telecommuting has gone from a necessity for the continuation of businesses to a potential future of work, many workers are beginning to question what impact working from home has on them. What are the benefits of continuing to work from home? How does working from home affect things like taxes? In this article, a few of the most common concerns about working from home are explored in more detail.
Working from home, or telecommuting is not a new phenomenon. As far back as the 1970s, improvements in telecommunication technology allowed some workers to do their duties from home. In general, telecommuting refers to the practice of performing the duties of a job at home. This is usually done from a home computer that may or may not be provided by the company as well as phones or other, more specialized devices.
Some employees have been permitted to work from home as part of the necessary accommodations that they are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, an employer must grant the employee reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their duties despite their disability status.
Once the initial hurdle of receiving or installing the necessary equipment and software to perform their duties from home is cleared, there are a number of benefits that employees can enjoy from telecommuting. Working from home allows employees to save money on travel expenses such as car maintenance and gas by eliminating the commute to a physical office. Additionally, working from home allows employees to create a comfortable work environment for themselves and take advantage of their proximity to their home to handle small tasks such as laundry while on break. These small advantages can greatly improve the morale of employees and make them more engaged in their work.
Unfortunately, working from home does include some of the disadvantages of its in-person opposite. While it manifests in different forms virtually, workers still experience sexual harassment and discrimination while working from home. Additionally, a unique challenge of working from home is that some employees may feel a sense of loneliness or isolation if they are left alone to work without regular meetings or check-ins.
One of the big challenges that arise from working from home is the question of taxation. In general, there are two questions that employees face regarding taxation: what taxes do they owe if they work in a different state than their employer and how can they make deductions for work from home expenses?
Calculating taxes when the employee lives in a different state from the employer can be complex. In general, an employee is responsible for both the income taxes in their home state and the income taxes of their employer’s state. Sometimes states will have reciprocal tax agreements with certain other states.
A reciprocal tax agreement is an arrangement where an employee will only have to pay state income taxes for the state they live in. For example, Illinois allows employees who work in the state but live in Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin to be exempt from Illinois income tax.
The other major question of taxation arises from whether employees will be able to get a federal deduction for working from home. One idea that some employees may have is that they can deduct the cost of their home office or other expenses from working at home like equipment costs on their taxes.
While there is a $5/sq. ft deduction up to a maximum of 300 sq. ft for home offices, there are some high bars for qualifying. The most disqualifying part of these requirements is that, according to the IRS, “Employees are not eligible to claim the home office deduction.” Further dashing hopes of tax breaks, a 2017 reform of the tax code eliminated miscellaneous itemized deductions for employees working from home. This means that in general, working from home will not result in significant tax savings.
When it comes to employee management from home, many of the same rules that apply to in-person employees are maintained. Anti-harassment and discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continue to protect workers from offensive and unprofessional behavior.
An employer may have special provisions in their technology use policies for at-home workers. This may include dictating what software is installed on a device used for company business or installing monitoring software on that device. Calculating hours may also be more complex as employees may have to manually fill out timecards or rely on programs to record how many “active” hours an employee works.
Regardless of how work hours are calculated, employees who work from home are still entitled to overtime compensation if they work more than 40 hours in a single workweek. Employers should also make sure that employees who have problems have ready access to human resources in order to resolve the issue, especially in a work-from-home environment.
If you have experienced a violation of your rights while working from home, you may be able to file a lawsuit in order to seek justice for the losses that you have suffered. By demonstrating the ways in which you were wronged by your employer, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. The best way to prevail in your lawsuit is with an Employment Law attorney.
An experienced Employment Law attorney can zealously advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case. Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Employment Law attorney will be able to gather evidence of your mistreatment and present that information in the most compelling way for your case.
Don’t wait, contact AAL today and begin your journey to justice.