It’s a perk many employees love: being allowed to use personal devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) to get their work done. But this trend can backfire on employers that don’t have a clear policy in place to govern the usage of these devices.
A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is absolutely essential if you’re going to allow employees to use their own gear.
For one, there’s the potential for productivity issues. After all, those devices can be loaded with a slew of time-wasting apps.
And, as a recent lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department showed, not having one could trigger unexpected — and costly — overtime obligations.
200 officers allowed to join lawsuit
The city could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay now that 200 officers have been allowed to join a lawsuit filed against it by Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.
Allen claims the police department violated the FLSA by refusing to pay officers for time they spent after work hours checking work-related email, voice mail and text messages on smartphones.
Under the FLSA, an employee doesn’t need to be asked to work beyond a 40-hour workweek to be entitled to overtime pay. He or she must simply perform overtime work for the employer’s benefit.
So the potential’s there for employees to rack up overtime by using personal devices for work without an employer’s consent — if there’s no clear BYOD policy in place. And the charges can rack up quickly if you employ a lot of non-exempt workers, as the Chicago lawsuit demonstrates.
Essentials for BYOD policies
To prevent productivity problems and legal obligations like those outlined in the Chicago suit, and others like it, employers should consider taking these steps to strengthen BYOD policies:
- Provide info on what the company defines as acceptable business use of personal devices, including a few examples of inappropriate use
- Impose a ban on supervisors sending messages to workers after hours that can wait for the next business day
- Require that employees not perform “off duty” work without their supervisor’s approval
- Tell non-exempt employees to inform their supervisors of any off-hours work they perform (and make sure their supervisors properly track that time)
- Make it clear that non-exempt employees shouldn’t check or respond to work email, voice mail and texts after hours, and
- Outline disciplinary actions that will be taken for violating your BYOD policies.