At first glance, whether to allow employees to use their personal smartphones and tablets for work purposes seems like a job for IT. But it can be a headache for the HR department and business owners, as well. Mobile devices are more popular than ever, enabling people to work from almost anywhere, around the clock. This is where it starts to get sticky from a personnel policy standpoint.
Non-exempt employees must be paid for any work they perform for an employer, whether or not they are onsite—and whether or not the employer knows about or authorizes their work. To avoid this potential nightmare, many firms have established policies against issuing company-paid devices to these workers and closely monitoring any use of personal devices. At minimum, a clear policy prohibiting the practice is required. Even exempt employees could be entitled to pay if they check messages or check in on projects while on vacation or a leave of absence, so be careful to communicate the policy at every opportunity.
Personal devices also leave companies at risk for a variety of lawsuits. The proliferation of texts and social media posts present the potential for liability, from sexual harassment to consumer retaliation. It’s important to maintain the same control over text messages as any written communication—even through texts are often viewed as less formal, and therefore not subject to established policies on sexual harassment and public statements.
Finally, employees’ personal devices can be conduits for sensitive company information. When staffers with access to such information are terminated, big problems can ensue. Even though it can wreak havoc if placed in the wrong hands, employers may not be entitled to access an employee’s personal device, either to capture information for use in legal proceedings or to wipe it clean. It’s best to limit access whenever possible, but that’s not always practical. When developing a personal device policy, include a release that workers agree to allow the company to recover data from their smartphones or tablets when they leave the company under any circumstances.
Be sure to include these issues when writing your company’s policy on workers using their personal devices at work. And if you haven’t yet instituted such a policy, you should consider making it a priority.