Smartphone Use by Non-Exempt Workers: It’s Even a Problem For Police

Do your managers expect employees to check their emails and other messaging options after hours or on the weekends? (That’s sort of everybody, isn’t it.) Well, here’s an FLSA alert for you, taken from a recent report from Forbes.

Chicago police officers, who are expected to regularly check BlackBerrys after their regular shifts, are seeking overtime pay for “off-duty” BlackBerry time.

While former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley thought the lawsuit was silly, the Feds didn’t. It took them two years to decide, but they approved the lawsuit to move forward. In fact, they invited all of Chicago’s Bureau of Organized Crime officers through the rank of lieutenant to join the suit.

Workplace policy changes to consider

“Unless an employer can prove that its workers who check emails are overtime-exempt professional, executive, or administrative employees, it could be liable for failing to pay for such “off duty” work,” Jim Burns wrote in this February Forbes article titled Do After-Hours Emails Trigger Overtime Pay?

He didn’t have to spell out for us, did he? We can easily picture the expensive mess in our mind’s eye.

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If you haven’t thought about this overtime issue before, here are a few suggestions for policy changes. If they don’t suit your jobs or work flow, it may be a good time to have a chat with your labor attorney!

  • The most straightforward is simply not issuing smartphones or PDAs to non-exempt employees. But that is not an option for lots of businesses.
  • Directing non-exempts to limit their reading of, and response to, emails to business hours. (And following up when you find their managers are asking for more.)
  • Reminding non-exempts to avoid off-duty work and specifically mentioning that includes checking their email.

I’m sure that many of you have found more job-specific ways to deal with this, too. If you’ve had success with other types of practices or policies, could you please include it as a comment? This could be a big hairy one for some of your colleagues.

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and principal of re:Think Consulting. She has decades of experience teaming up with clients to ensure great HR ideas deliver valuable business results. She has worked with early-phase and Fortune 500 companies, as well as universities, non-profits and local firms. Before she founded re:Think Consulting, Margaret was an Principal in Total Rewards Communications with Towers Perrin. Contact her at mohanlon@rethinkconsulting.com.

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