Can I require my employees to return to work in-person?
In most cases, employers are able to require employees to return to work in-office. However, there are some exceptions:
First, an employer cannot force an employee to return to work if it would be discriminatory to do so. For example, if an employee has a disability that interferes with their ability to return to work in-person, the employer may have a duty to accommodate by continuing to allow that employee to work remotely.
Second, an employer should pay attention to the terms of any applicable employment contract. If the employment contract permits the employee to work from home, then, depending on the wording of the contract, an employee may have legal grounds to refuse a demand that they work in-office.
Some employees refuse to return to the office due to the belief that doing so is unsafe or a danger to their health. For an employee to be successful on this ground, their belief must be reasonable (as ultimately assessed by a government inspector) and supported by current government guidelines. Given the easing of public health mandates and restrictions, simply being concerned about the potential to contract COVID-19 may not be sufficient for a valid refusal to return to the office.