Legal trouble for Blackberry and iPhone users

Like most in the technology industry I work well over 40 hours per week. Also like most, rarely am I compensated for all the ad hoc work done off hours. We just accept it as a matter of course based on the industry we're in. However, some legal eagles are saying employees may be entitled to overtime pay for using their iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device for business use after hours.

I respond to email on my mobile device after hours every night, and every weekend, on Christmas, while on vacation.... well, you get the idea. And, I'm not alone. Experts quoted in this CNBC article are saying companies need to implement policies around after hours usage. My guess is even if they do those policies will be ignored by middle management downward and the same 24x7 accessibility expectation will silently remain. Howard Levin says, "Another option is for employers to ask non-exempt workers to leave the device at the office at the end of their work day." I'm sorry Howard, have you ever worked outside the law microsphere? Most mobile devices are increasingly people's phones which they expect to have available 24x7. Right or wrong, cutting off people from their mobile devices at 5 p.m. would cause a huge downturn in productivity. It's just not realistic. As people become more hyperconnected they never really step away from the office. The virtual office paradigm extends to the home, your kids baseball game, even the beach in Hawaii.

That's why my last vacation made it virtually impossible to stay connected by design. I took a four-day motorcycle trip up the California coast and only stopped in places with a minimal expectation of cell signal. However, that's a very rare pleasure for me and I'd guess for most of you readers.

April Boyer says "Plaintiff lawyers have started making rumblings that it’s a potential claim.” How will employers handle this scenario? Workers who keep a log of their after-hours activities could be entitled to significant compensation when all this shakes out. One take is that by giving employees BlackBerries they're essentially getting hundreds of free man hours of work per employee per year. The cost savings there is mind-blowing. What if they all had to pay up all of a sudden? As an employee I love the personal upside but taking a higher level view, this could have wide-reaching negative ripples economically. Additional costs or the alternative of lost/lowered productivity puts businesses in a no-win situation.

What's your take on the issue?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in