Many of our employees have smartphones. Do we have to pay them for every time they use it outside of regular working hours? While I tell them not to, many still respond to emails and texts outside of work hours. What do I do?
This issue has exploded as of late! Most employers and employees use smartphones, an ideal tool to improve efficiency, productivity, and accessibility for their employees. It does, however, become an issue, because non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked–including hours responding to emails, phone calls, and texts outside of “regular” work hours. This is probably one of the most common violations that Wage and Hour auditors are finding.
So what to do? As an employer, you need to have a policy in place requiring tracking of smartphone usage–even restricting use outside of regular business hours–and tie it into your overtime policy. That being said, managers then cannot email employees during those off times and expect an immediate response (not even first thing in the morning). If you find out employees are replying outside of regular work hours you need to (1) address the issue in terms of performance and (2) make sure you pay them!
For exempt employees, smartphone usage can be less of an issue; however, it can pose a problem. If these employees are working any part of the workweek, they must be paid for the entire week. Some companies make it a policy that employees must relinquish all smart devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) when they are going to be off; but honestly, this can be somewhat unreasonable if you need to touch base on a client issue or a “quick question.”
Consider these issues when you create a policy and determine how you will handle such issues with employees–whether exempt or non-exempt. The Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov, offers guidance for managing these types of concerns and making sure you are paying employees for actual hours worked.
Strategic Human Resources, Inc., is a national full-service HR management firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our president and founder, Robin Throckmorton, can be reached at Robin@strategichrinc.com.
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