Tuesday, April 29, 2014

German Labor Ministry Bans After-Hours Employee Contact

In a previous post, we examined whether employees could owe overtime pay to non-exempt employees who use their company smartphones after normal working hours and how employers should establish clear policies governing smartphone usage.

In Germany, this need for clarity was highlighted when the country’s labor ministry recently banned managers from contacting employers after-hours except in case of emergency. . Under the guidelines, employees are not to be penalized for failing to check voicemails after hours and should only be contacted if the matter cannot wait until the next workday. Other German employers, including BMW and Volkswagen, have also established policies to limit after-hours contact. The policy comes in the wake of an apparent suicide by a Swiss telecom executive who had admitted the constant use of his smartphone caused him extreme stress.

While these guidelines were established to protect the “mental health” of employees rather than to avoid overtime pay, the principle is the same. Employers and employees both benefit when clear policies are established and communicated.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sixth Circuit Rules on Telecommuting as Reasonable Accommodation

Yesterday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., deciding in favor of an employee who requested to telecommute to work for medical reasons.

The Ohio Employer's Law Blog has this summary of the case, where a key issue was whether physical presence was an essential function of the employee's job:

Yesterday, in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., the 6th Circuit, for the first time, recognized that modern technology is making telecommuting a realistic reasonable accommodation option. . . . 

"[W]e are not rejecting the long line of precedent recognizing predictable attendance as an essential function of most jobs.… We are merely recognizing that, given the state of modern technology, it is no longer the case that jobs suitable for telecommuting are “extraordinary” or “unusual.” … [C]ommunications technology has advanced to the point that it is no longer an “unusual case where an employee can effectively perform all work-related duties from home.” 

For more, visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog.