Can My Employer Force Me to Come Back to The Office?

Jun 28, 2022
By Peter Friedmann

2 years after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, about 6 in 10 U.S. adults say that their jobs can be done from home for the most part, according to a Pew Research study. 61% of those surveyed say they are choosing to work from home while only 38% shared that they work from home because of a still-closed or unavailable workplace.

And while some workplaces still remain closed, employees who have gotten used to working remotely may be wondering if they can refuse to return to the office should that call come.

Below, we explore the question of can you be forced to return to the office and related questions.

Note: The following is not legal advice. It is general information meant to educate. Please reach out to the Friedmann Firm, LLC to speak with an employment lawyer for advice and guidance.

Can Remote Workers Refuse to Go Back to the Office?

Remote workers have become even more common during the pandemic, with many office workers making the switch when offices closed down early on. For remote workers that may want to refuse to go back to the office, the answer here can be disappointing.

Workplaces set and maintain their own work policies, which will often include where and when their employees work. So long as workplaces are following the rules and guidelines set by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, they can usually require remote workers to return to the office.

Remote workers can technically refuse, but that may result in being laid off or terminated.

One possible option to consider is to see if your workplace has remote work policies in place that allow for a hybrid approach to work (i.e., working certain days in the office and other days at home). You can approach your supervisor to ask about making this a more permanent option.

You can review your employment contract and workplace guidelines to see if this policy exists. If you need an employment lawyer to help you look over your contract, you can reach out to our team today.

Can I Refuse to Return to the Office?

A worker can technically refuse to return to the office, but your workplace may lay you off or fire you, depending on the situation.

But there are certain situations where a refusal to return to the office may have legal protections. Some individuals are at higher risk to contract COVID-19 due to underlying health issues or being immunocompromised.

In these instances, you may be able to apply for remote work as a reasonable accommodation for certain positions. Reasonable accommodations are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and afford covered individuals the ability to request accommodations that will allow them to complete tasks related to their jobs.

Possible reasonable accommodations, as listed by the EEOC in relation to COVID-19, include the right to ask for remote work, if your job can be performed remotely.

Your employer will need to consider your accommodation request if you are a qualified individual. See more information on what counts as a reasonable ADA accommodation here.

Can I Be Forced to Return to the Office?

As said above, your employer does have the right to have employees return to the office (barring certain circumstances that relate to disabilities and health concerns, and childcare), especially if it was understood before the pandemic that work would be done in the office.

Your employer can ask you to return to the office whenever they would like to if they are in compliance with public health guidelines and workplace safety protocols.

Schedule a Consultation with a Columbus Employment Lawyer

With the still rapid changes that are impacting workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find yourself with a number of related questions tied to remote work, returning to the office, and other areas of employment. For further help, please reach out to The Friedmann Firm, LLC today to schedule a consultation with a Columbus employment lawyer.

We handle a wide range of employment law issues, and we can help to answer further questions you might have about the return to the office and your rights.

Connect with our experienced team today for a free, confidential consultation over the phone at 614-949-9755 or submit an online request.