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Home Invasion

Frontier -- Trends

Home Invasion

Are employers responsible for federal health and safety violations that occur in employees' home offices? That's a tricky question, as Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman recently learned. Following protests from business groups and lawmakers early this month, Herman retreated from a ruling that employers could be held liable for hazards such as unsafe stairs and bad lighting in their workers' home offices.

Nearly 20 million Americans telecommute, a fact that employment law has been slow to recognize. Any new restrictions would be a blow to small companies that try to retain workers through flextime and other arrangements tied to work at home. "The current legal structure doesn't work very well for telework," frets Bob Blackstone, a Seattle legal specialist on telecommuting.

What next? Herman plans to initiate a "national dialogue" on telecommuting regulations later this year--an effort, she says, to determine the "rules of the road" in a rapidly changing workplace. Entrepreneurs, stay tuned.By Chris Sandlund

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