Interesting Look at Remote Work From NAREIT

Workers in the Sun Belt area of the country are more likely to go to their workplaces, including offices, while workers in gateway metros are less likely. While there are many drivers of work from home, one reason for the differences across locations is commute times. Analysis shows in those areas with longer commutes, workers are more likely to work from home.

According to data from Google on all workers and Kastle on office workers, workers in gateway cities are more likely to work from home. Charts 1 and 2 plot the average weekly percent of visits to the workplace generally (Chart 1) and the office specifically (Chart 2) for major metro areas the week of May 16, 2022. Chart 1 has additional metros not covered by Kastle.

The trends are similar for both charts:

  1. Houston and Austin residents were most likely to go to work and the office with residents of San Jose and San Francisco least likely to go to the office.
  2. Austin residents were at 61.2% of their pandemic baseline of office visits, and overall, the metro was at 97.8% of the pandemic baseline for all workers.
  3. San Francisco was just over half of its pre-pandemic baseline for return to workplaces with offices 31.6% occupied.

Among the reasons why work from home is more popular in particular parts of the country is commute time. Those who work from home get more time back in their day and have a larger reduction in stress when their commutes are longer. Charts 3 and 4 illustrate this correlation between going to work and commute times, as measured by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Chart 3 looks at the expanded list of metros from Chart 1, while Chart 4 looks at Kastle’s ten metro areas. In both charts, cities with lower commute times tend to have a higher percentage of time back at workplaces, including offices.

Looking at the country as a whole, the American Community Survey calculates the share of commuters with different commute times in each county in the U.S. Counties at the top of the distribution, with a much higher share of residents with a commute of 30 minutes or longer, visit workplaces at 76% of their pre-pandemic norm compared to residents in counties with the lowest share of residents who visit at 93% of their pre-pandemic norm.

Independent Contractor Rule Sent to White House

A DOL proposal to define independent contractor status under federal wage and hour law is under review at the White House budget office, one of the final steps before the proposal becomes public.

The rulemaking (RIN: 1235-AA43) is the second attempt by the Biden administration to rewrite how it interprets whether workers should be classified as independent contractors or full employees who are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Shortly after Biden took office, the DOL rescinded the Trump administration’s standard that made it easier for businesses to consider workers independent contrators.

VA Seizure Notice

Virginia employers with 25+ employees must have this poster on seizure first aid displayed in a prominent location in their workplace. 

VA Employee Leave to Attend Eviction Proceedings

Effective July 1st, VA employers are prohibited by statute from discharging or otherwise taking adverse personnel action against employees who miss work for unlawful detainer (i.e., eviction) proceedings. (See new Code § 8.01-126, HB1236)

NM Sick Leave Law

Effective July 1, 2022, New Mexico’s Healthy Workplaces Act (HWA) requires private employers to provide paid sick leave to eligible employees. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions recently published answers to frequently asked questions and regulations to provide guidance and clarity on various issues as the effective date approaches, including the definition of “covered employees”; rules for accrual, use, and carryover of paid sick leave; frontloading; and employee documentation and employer notification requirements.

Use a Stand-Alone Arbitration Agreement

I have always recommended using a stand-alone arbitration agreement. A Tennessee court refused to enforce an arbitration in an employee handbook. In Mankin Media Systems, Inv. v. Timothy Crowder, No. 19CV-48300W (Jun. 30, 2022), the Court of Appeals of Tennessee held that since the handbook contained an at-will statement and stated that it was no a contract, the court refused to enforce it.

Written by: Gordon M. Berger, Partner 

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