A Maine radio personality was recently the subject of a claimed layoff according to her employer, but according to the employee, she was terminated because she did not return to work due to concerns about COVID-19. This story is likely just one of many that will be the subject of scrutiny if not full blown litigation, as states re-open and businesses attempt to re-adjust. The story in the PressHerald details that the 38 year veteran employee had been working from home and managing operations for six weeks as a result of a recommendation from her physician due to her high risk medical status. Her employer apparently desired that she returned to work, citing terms of an agreement and because the company wanted leadership in the building. Yet, the employee claims she was able to effectively do her job remotely and the company had previously been agreeable to the arrangement, with the understanding the situation would be revisited at two week intervals. To read the full story, please click here.
Unquestionably, the pandemic has forced the issue of remote work to the forefront, and as states are easing restrictions, the return to “in office” work is being tested by situations like the one in Maine. If an employee’s job functions can successfully be achieved by remote work, advocates will argue there is no need for them to return to the office as they did pre-pandemic. Detractors will argue that remote work does not serve the employer’s best interest. While the issue in Maine contains elements of possible discrimination and will also be sorted out based on a purported terms of a written agreement, the circumstances nevertheless raises the pressing question about all employees—contracted or not---who were cast into remote working as a business necessity, but who now may find themselves comfortable, efficient, and productive from home.