Friday, November 27, 2020
Rachel S. Arnow-Richman (University of Florida), Is There An Individual Right to Remote Work? A Private Law Analysis, ABA J. Labor & Empl’t L. (2020):
One of the gnawing legal questions of the COVID-19 pandemic is the status of remote work. Since the expiration of the first round of government shut-down orders in the summer of 2020, companies have been calling workers back to the job, prompting serious concerns about the risk of workplace transmission. As a consequence, many workers have asked to continue the remote arrangements their employers adopted when forced to close under executive orders. Some employers are acceding to these requests; others are not. This brief essay, prepared for the ABA Journal on Labor & Employment Law, considers this problem from a private law perspective. It concludes that public law offers little protection to individual employees other than those with qualifying disabilities. Companies, however, may be in breach of contract if they terminate employees who have enforceable job security rights for refusing to return to in- person work. Rather than rely on guesswork, the prudent and compassionate choice for employers is to continue temporary remote arrangements to the extent feasible.