Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

Telecommuting As A Civil Right: The PORT Act

Mass telecommuting is the most impactful mobility solution no one is talking about. This bill makes it a civil right.

Photo of Mitch Turck
8 2

Written by

The Proof Of Required Travel Act (PORT) is a supplement to Title VII (Employment Discrimination Laws) of the Civil Rights Act, with aims to protect and promote the right to telecommute. The Act declares:

An employer may not require any employee to travel into a work site, nor may it make an employment decision due to an employee’s refusal to travel into a work site, unless the employer can prove requirement of travel due to one of the following conditions:

  • Telecommuting would render the employee unable to perform essential functions of the position
  • Telecommuting would impose undue burden on employer operations
  • Telecommuting has resulted in the employee demonstrating diminished performance

The underlying justification for PORT is that telecommuting -- sometimes referred to as remote working, or teleworking, or working virtually, or working from home -- is among the most impactful and immediate positive changes the U.S. can effect on climate, transportation, and labor issues today. What prevents millions of Americans from undertaking systemic telecommuting is unwarranted discrimination and unfair treatment of employees who operate in a virtual workspace (or request to do so), often manifested as:

  • Increased expectation levels around availability and activity verification, beyond what is asked of commuting employees
  • The commonly accepted refrain of remote work as a "perk" rather than an equally legitimate working arrangement
  • Compensation penalties and caps imposed on telecommuting employees, justified by the stigma of the "perk" as a negotiation tool
  • Hindrances to career development due to implicit or explicit bias in considering telecommuting employees for promotions and raises
  • Refusal to acknowledge telework as such when it is performed at a work site, despite the overwhelming frequency with which it occurs
  • Refusal to grant an employee’s request to telecommute, without evidence to support such refusal

As such, being discriminatory in nature and generally unproductive to the interests of all parties involved, Title VII should apply. The exception conditions listed under PORT already exist as precedent under The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Precise figures are difficult to pin down given the increasing adoption of digital productivity tools, but a fairly common projection estimates 10% of the U.S. workforce (~15 million commuting employees) as “ready to telecommute today.” In most states, this would triple or quadruple the number of remote workers immediately. Again, this number is projected to increase steadily as labor becomes digitized, and many more employees today are just a few simple steps away from being remote-ready — in total it is estimated 50% of the workforce holds a job that could be performed at least partially remotely, while nearly 90% express a desire to have telecommuting flexibility.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Prototype - you have built a prototype and tested it with potential users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Many studies in telecommuting have shown employees to be more productive than their office-bound counterparts. Some notable examples:

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

I am a civilian petitioning for this legislation. I have no financial stake in the passage of the bill.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $25,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

$15,000: Production of materials for corporate awareness and telecommuting best practices, including work-from-home policies, management training, and a repository of productivity tools $7,500: Production of a video educating the workforce on how to achieve and maintain a telecommuting role $2,500: Marketing and advertising dollars to promote video among Indianapolis employees

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

During pursuit of the legislation in State Senate, regional employers who support the idea of the bill (or better, employers who oppose the idea of the bill) would be recruited to pledge support of telecommuting as an employee choice through their own corporate policy. This effort would quickly activate the bill in spirit while the letter of the law is being pursued, thus creating the pilot period. Virtually all outcomes the bill would impact locally could be achieved without the bill itself, if it was broadly adopted in spirit across employers. Worth noting also: given the Challenge's focus on measuring mobility and socioeconomic impact, a telecommuting study of this scale would represent one of the largest -- and certainly, the most holistic -- such studies available in the marketplace. It would place Indy on the transportation reform world stage at that point.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Short term: number and rate of telecommuting adoption, decrease in workday office occupancy, decrease in rush hour congestion Long term: decrease in pollution for transportation and commercial building sectors, decrease in car ownership, shifts in commercial building usage

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

By nature, awareness of the legislation (and the bill itself, once passed) becomes more effective and sustainable as it grows. The greater its presence, the harder it is for employers to dismiss and discriminate telecommuting.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mitch Turck

Posting an update here for the sake of the Refine phase:

- PORT will be featured in several upcoming media publications, including a podcast and the editorial blog of a digital productivity company
- As part of the $15k line item listed in my budget, I have begun talking to urban planners and economists about the potential to commission an independent study on the economic potential for downtown Indy to turn select commercial properties (office buildings & parking garages) into housing stock and retail. The idea of the study is to create a rough blueprint for any local employer or property owner to estimate the internal ROI of embracing PORT -- which again, can be executed almost fully in spirit as corporate policy or re-zoning. I have also applied for a few small (four-figure) grants to commission the study.
- I have held talks with a major Pittsburgh employer about the potential of PORT, and those insights will aid in engaging major Indy employers.
- I am in (very early) talks with a few climate reform organizations about piloting PORT in spirit, in order to produce a groundbreaking study on the economic and environmental impacts of planned mass telecommuting.

View all comments