Legislature should vote against work-from-home bill


The COVID-19 pandemic has become the catalyst for many changes to our customary way of life. Nowhere has this been truer than in the workplace, with perhaps the greatest workplace change being the increasing number of people working from home. The reasons for this migration away from the office are varied. Sometimes it resulted from state mandated lockdowns. Sometimes it was a necessity for workers dealing with children no longer at school. Sometimes it arose from employers and employees acting to minimize possible exposure to the COVID virus.

Working from home presents its own challenges. Some of them are financial. This session of the General Assembly is considering a bill that would require employers to pay employees for costs incurred while working at home — expenses like internet or telephone services, work supplies and, among others, the purchase of computer hardware or software.

This proposal, HB6536, referred April 26 to the House Committee on Appropriations, may be attractive at first glance, but it is less so when closely examined.

There are several problems with the bill. Foremost, it increases the costs of doing business in Connecticut.

The bill ignores the fact that whatever impact on the employee working at home, the employer is still paying for rent, utilities, internet service, telephone lines and a plethora of other ongoing costs that typically continue to accrue just as if the employees were still working at the shop, store or office. It also seems to assume that the employee working at home is a convenience that solely benefits the employer. In many cases this is a false assumption.

For example, many employers have allowed employees to continue to work at home to accommodate COVID-related child care needs. This was not a benefit to the company, but to the employee. Many, perhaps the majority, of employers experienced a loss of employee productivity as a result of their people working at home. The balances of fairness and equity between employer and employee that seems to undergird the bill are simply false, and the smaller the employer, the less valid those assumptions of equitable balance.


Setting aside the deficiencies in the bill’s underpinnings, the proposed legislation also suffers from serious functional failings. First off, despite its heading, the bill’s scope does not appear to be limited to expenses incurred by employees working away from the office and the definition of “employee” coupled as it is to a such a general “employer” definition, leaves open the whole question of independent contractors. Who are they? Are they intended to be covered by this bill?

Phrases like “but not limited to,” “such as,” and “indirectly related to” in section 1(a)(3) render the term “necessary expenditures” too vague and open to overbroad interpretation.

The provision of section 1(d) that employers pay a minimum of 50 percent of any service or services that an employee receives for his or her personal use is unfair and divorced from the true value that any such service might have to the employer. An even more problematic concept is introduced in Section 1(e) where an employee who has not kept documentation to support claims of costs for covered employer-related goods and services can simply sign a written statement of those expenses that the employer must honor — no questions asked. This is an invitation to employee abuse.

Section 1(i) creates an enforcement nightmare for business and employee alike. It calls for violation charges to be filed with the Labor Commissioner, that the charges will be investigated and that a hearing “may” be held before the Commissioner issues a decision under which fines of $1,000 and other “appropriate relief” may be levied. What constitutes “appropriate” relief? As well, there is a fundamental due process issue in the permissive nature of any hearing being held before such penalties are imposed.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, are unintended consequences of the bill.

One can only ask how many employers who are now willing to accommodate employee requests to work from home will change their tune when faced with the complications and possible difficulties imposed by this bill if enacted. How many employers, especially at smaller firms, will throw up their hands and require all employees to return to the office, irrespective of the inconvenience caused the employees, to avoid the difficulties and complications that the bill would introduce into the home-based workplace?

Robert B. Mitchell
is an attorney with Stratford-based Mitchell & Sheahan P.C., a law firm that primarily handles employment-related legal matters. He can be reached at www.mitchellandsheahan.com or 203-873-0240.



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