Will You Be Forced to Pay Overtime For Employee Smartphone Use?

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By Eric B. Meyer

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

(I’m pretty sure that was from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

This week, in The Wall Street Journal, I read Lauren Weber’s article Can You Sue the Boss for Making You Answer Late-Night Email? And the answer is yes, provided that you are a non-exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the time you spend answering that email is more than a few minutes a week.

More focus on technology driving more work

It’s no different than when an employee checks company email at work. Work is work. Employees get paid to work.

Ok, so there’s the WSJ article. And then I read on Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s Wage & Hour Litigation Blog that the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division announced a request for information (RFI) regarding “the use of technology, including portable electronic devices, by employees away from the workplace and outside of scheduled work hours outside of scheduled work outside of scheduled work hours.”

Next, consider that the Department of Labor is in the process of updating its overtime regulations, most notably, to raise the minimum weekly salary threshold to be considered “exempt” under the FLSA.

One, two, three.

Employer takeaways

Now, look here. I got a 780 on my Math SATs. But, even without that, I can do the um, what’s the word? Oh, math. (I didn’t do so good well whatever on the English section).

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More non-exempt employees + more smartphone-using employees (35 percent of employed online adults say the Internet, email and cell phones have increased the amount of time they spend working) = more wages that should be paid.

So, if you have non-exempt employees using smartphones for work and you don’t want them checking email (and doing other work on them) outside of normal working hours, you need to make that clear.

Additionally, make sure that the employees you consider “exempt,” who are checking email outside of normal working hours, are indeed exempt. Otherwise, that could be a disaster.

The same goes for the people you consider “independent contractors.” (Misclassifying employees as independent contractors can be equally disastrous).

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.