Human Resources News & Insights

Smartphones for non-exempt staffers: Overtime disaster?

Of course, you want workers to be as productive as possible. But handing out smartphones to non-exempt employees may be much more of a headache — and a cash drain — than it’s worth.

Here’s why: Employees checking smartphones after hours represent a hidden overtime liability, and there are many gray areas between what’s compensable time — and must be paid — and what are so-called “de minimis” activities.

Here are some examples of what you have to pay for — and what you don’t — in pre- and post-shift tasks under the Portal-to-Portal Act.

Pre-shift ‘de minimis’

  • Passively receiving mapping instructions, and
  • Prioritizing jobs and routes for daily assignments.

Pre-shift compensable

  • Booting up laptops and opening software used for work
  • Actively calling in for and reviewing the day’s assignments
  • Checking and responding to email
  • Actively mapping out daily travel routes, and
  • Loading computers, printers, docking stations, digital cameras and other supplies into cars.

Post-shift ‘de minimis’

  • Simply carrying a smartphone to be on call after hours, and
  • Spending aggregate amount of time on work activity that amounts to only a few seconds or minutes.

Post-shift compensable

  • Uploading data to a company server with more than one attempt being necessary to complete the task, and
  • Being on-call so restrictively that employees can’t effectively use time for their own purposes.

Based on a presentation by labor lawyer Rich Paul of the San Diego law firm of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan and Connaughton, LLP, who spoke at the 2012 LEAP symposium in Las Vegas.

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