Technology has made a huge impact not only in the personal life of people but it has likewise affected the work environment we have today. It’s really amazing to think that several years before, companies primarily used fax machines and snail mail to communicate in their business dealings.
Nowadays, mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, which use countless helpful applications, have become an integral part of the workplace. More and more companies are now issuing phones and mobile devices to their employees to ensure that the latter are constantly connected and up to date on the latest events and can receive and respond to emails and messages related to their work, even if they are on the go.
While using these modern gadgets can bring about more productivity and efficiency for the company, it also has a drawback. Since these devices would create a perpetual workplace wherein the employee will be doing work using their mobile devices even when they are already off the clock. For workers exempt from overtime, there is no problem, as the employee is not eligible for overtime pay anyway. Thus, doing work tasks outside of the office will not be an issue. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for non-exempt employees.
A few minutes to check an important email here, and ten more minutes answering a call there, can add up to a lot of work time which is being done by the employee outside of office hours. The worst thing about this is that the worker is not paid for these work-related tasks even if these activities are necessary to their job and benefit the employers.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “hours worked” are considered to be all of the hours spent by the worker in performing tasks which are related to work that benefit the employer, so long as the employer knows about or should have been aware of the work which is being done. Thus, employees who are issued smart phones and tablets by their employers are actually doing work for all of the time that they spend using the said devices related to their job.
All of these extra hours worked by the employees outside of office hours can actually end up pushing his or her working hours in excess of 40 hours in a week. Based on the provisions of the FLSA, employees who are eligible for overtime pay should be paid one and a half times their regular rate for the number of hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. This means that employees who spend long periods of personal time on their smart phones and tablets for work may actually be entitled to overtime pay, according to the law.
Spending ten to fifteen minutes in an hour on your mobile device for work, even outside of office hours, may not seem like much. But these extra hours can really add up to a lot of compensable work time which is not being paid. Just imagine adding ten to fifteen minutes every hour over a span of three years and you will have a large amount of overtime pay which was not properly paid to the non-exempt employee.
As such, companies are urged to put in place better policies which will avoid these overtime abuses from happening. For one, setting forth a policy that will clearly relay to the non-exempt employees that they are not expected to perform work using their mobile devices outside of office hours unless they are given proper authorization. Also, instituting measures to better monitor work time, including remote hours outside the office using mobile devices, is a really great way to give transparency to the employees with regard to their compensable hours of work.
Mobile devices in the workplace are here to stay and adapting properly to their usage is very important, not only for the employer, but also for the employee. If you think that you have been subject to such overtime abuses as a result of unpaid work done using mobile devices, or if you have any questions on the topic, give us a call right away and we will be happy to help you out in any way we can.
Jesse Brar is a Utah employment lawyer who has many years of experience handling class/collective or many multi-plaintiff cases. For a free consultation, you may contact him at 801-269-9541.