Cell phones are extremely handy, and they can dramatically increase employee productivity. But if your employees use them after work hours, they could be a legal nightmare.
The Chicago Police Department is similar to other employers who’ve issued company-provided cell phones. Management wanted to give their employees a way to boost their productivity by being able to check their e-mail, voice mail and text messages remotely.
The problem was, officers were using their BlackBerrys for work-related tasks after their shifts had ended.
Result? An attorney for Sgt. Jeffrey Allen filed a lawsuit against the employer as a proposed class action, claiming the department “willfully violated the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) by intentionally failing and refusing to pay plaintiff and other similarly situated employees all compensation due them under the FLSA.”
In other words, the officers want overtime for the work they did after hours on their employer-provided BlackBerrys.
What the law says
Under the FLSA, an employee does not need to be required, or asked, to work beyond a 40-hour workweek to be entitled to overtime pay — he or she must simply do so for the employer’s benefit.
But the FLSA does say that “de minimis” work done beyond the 40-hour workweek by non-exempt employees is not required to be compensable. However, legal experts warn that an employer’s liability can accumulate rapidly in a class action suit like the one the Chicago P.D. is facing.
Protecting your company
Cell phone usage records are a hard thing to fight in court, so if your company is worried about overtime, its safest bet is to implement a cell phone usage policy.
Such a policy should be written to do two things:
- Restrict after hours work-related cell phone use to exempt employees only, and
- Instruct non-exempt employees to only take customer calls or respond to customer e-mails during regular work hours.
It can cost you
T-Mobile sales reps recently sued the company claiming they were entitled to overtime pay for time they were required to monitor their smartphones outside of office hours.
The suit was settled out of court, and the parties agreed not to disclose the terms. But you can bet it cost T-Mobile a pretty penny.
Before the case against the Chicago P.D. can proceed, a judge must first certify it as a class action suit. We’ll keep you posted.
Cite: Jeffery Allen v. City of Chicago
Do you think the Chicago Police Department should have to pay its officers overtime for the work they did after hours on their cell phones? Share your opinions in the Comments Box below.