Ask Help Desk: If I Take a Remote Job, Can I Be Forced into an Office?
In this new era of work, employees who work at an office are finding that return-to-work policies can be tricky.
We’ve heard stories from workers about companies that have changed work arrangements from remote, part-time remote to full time in-office. We’ve heard about fears over whether an employer can promise one working arrangement, only to change it weeks or months later. And we’ve heard questions about what protections unions may or may not offer workers when it comes to returning to the office.
Gus Sandstrom, an employment lawyer at Philadelphia-based Blank Rome, said these kinds of agreements are usually reserved for upper level and executive positions. But given the competitive job market, employees have “more leverage than any time in our lifetime,” he said. So they might as well ask.
“Employees can ask for and get things these days that a lot of employers wouldn’t have considered years ago,” he said. “Worst case [the employer] will say no. But it’s unlikely they’d retract an offer because an employee asked for greater protection.”
Conversely, if an employer creates better conditions for non-unionized employees while it drags its feet bargaining with the union, it could create a hostile environment for many workers, Sandstrom said.
“Generally, employers want to maintain good union relations,” he said. “That would be somewhat like throwing a grenade on the situation.”
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"Ask Help Desk: If I Take a Remote Job, Can I Be Forced into an Office?" by Danielle Abril was published in The Washington Post on May 13, 2022.