What the heck is ‘bleisure’ and how could your company get sued over it?


People ask me if I like to read.

Not so much anymore, outside of reading Harry Potter books to my kids and reading graphic novels (ok, fine, comic books) to me. Social media apps like LinkedIn have eroded my attention span. I can barely make it through a few hundred words without clicking elsewhere. Maybe that’s why I’ve never made it through a lengthy explanation of NFTs. But that’s a post for another day.

Today, it is about ‘bleisure.’ Ironically, my lack of focus led me to click “Has the era of ‘bleisure’ begun?” on LinkedIn. And since the post was only about 75 words, I managed to read all of it.

So what is bleisure?

The blurring of lines between business and leisure as people work from home — or from anywhere — has produced what travel industry experts are calling “bleisure.” It’s credited with helping to save the airline industry at a time of widespread flight cancellations and staffing shortages. Some say that the technology enabling the explosion in remote work is more disruptive to travel than steam engines or commercial flight, and accounts for a “great untethering” that’s here to stay.

It sounds like companies have brainwashed employees into paying for business travel. Mwahahaha!

But, before were break out the champagne to toast Q1 earnings projections, I’ll be the buzzkill with some employment law implications of allowing employees to work remotely out of state.

  1. Local employment laws. Typically, the state’s law in which an employee works governs the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment, such as how/when to compensate an employee, leave entitlements, all the way down to required state and local law postings. If the bleisure trip is brief, then this won’t be much of an issue. But, an extended remote work arrangement could trigger certain obligations to adhere to the law in which the employee works.
  2. Protecting company data. As with any remote-work arrangement, companies must emphasize network and information security. Employees who work remotely should have strong passwords, avoid public wifi (and use VPNs), avoid unsafe websites, encrypt data, avoid phishing schemes, and receive training on other cybersecurity best practices.
  3. Wage and hour implications. Presumably, most of your long-term remote workers are exempt from the overtime and minimum wage rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, non-exempt employees should be tracking their time spent working and only work overtime with pre-approval from the company. Plus, you may need to provide meal or rest breaks by state law.
  4. Prevent discrimination/harassment. I’ve noticed an inverse relationship between remote work and hostile work environment claims. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen when employees bleisure. (Yes, I’m using it as a verb now. And it’s giving Grammarly serious agita.) Ensure that remote workers receive the same training and education on your anti-harassment policies as the suckers valued employees who report to the office daily. Also, avoid any disparate treatment when deciding who gets to take a bleisure trip. You don’t need an employee complaining about unfair treatment based on [insert protected class].
  5. Leave rights and accommodations. This gets a little tricky. The Family and Medical Leave Act covers an employee who works remotely (75 miles or more from the employer’s office) if the office to which the employee reports and from which the company assigns work has 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of its location. FMLA-eligible employees should know how to apply for leave, and you should administer their leave rights as you would any other employee. Similarly, if an employee needs an accommodation to perform the job’s essential functions remotely — even on a bleisure trip — don’t ignore that request. Instead, discuss it with them in good faith. At least, they won’t be able to see you roll your eyes if you turn off the Zoom video. (Did I write that? Hackers, I say!)

Are companies required to allow employees to take bleisure trips? No. But, if bleisure attracts talent, work gets done, and customers get served, I’ll all for it. (Said the full-time remote-working employment law attorney).

Just mind the employment laws. Otherwise, I’ll be getting your calls and will be able to upgrade soon to that rhodium standing desk I’ve been coveting for my palatial bleisure home in Maui.


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