Q: Our employees are mostly remote workers. Do we have to provide their workstation desk and chair or are the employees responsible for this equipment?
A: You can provide this equipment for your remote employees, but you usually do not have to do so.
In some states (such as California), an employer is required either to provide employees with the tools and items necessary to complete the job or to reimburse employees for these expenses. However, workstation equipment like desks and chairs usually don’t apply.
The advantage of providing the equipment is that employees may be happier with their work situation and might use company equipment in a safer manner than they would their own. Some disadvantages are the shipping costs and the potential for waste. Some employees may not want this equipment in their homes, already having their own preferred workstation.
If an employee requests a device or some form of furniture as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so they can perform the essential functions of their job, you would consider it like any other ADA request. For example, providing a back support cushion or computer stand would probably not be an undue hardship, and therefore something you should do.
The bottom line is that employees can often work wherever they prefer: a home office, their kitchen, the local coffee shop. The place an employee does their work is really up to them. In addition, OSHA has stated that they have no intention to inspect employees’ homes for workplace safety. The safety of an employee’s home workstation is their own personal responsibility.
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