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Personal Mobile Devices in the Workplace

by Jacklyn Fetbroyt & Michael Chiumento, Clerk

Companies seeking to improve efficiency and employee interaction for work purposes have slowly begun to implement policies allowing employees to use laptops, tablets, and mobile devices in the work place.  One issue that arises with BYOD policies is with regard to the employee’s compensation.  First, who will pay for the actual device?  The monthly service fee?  If the employer will pay, in whole or in part, for the device, how will payments be made (or allocated, where necessary)?  Moreover, what about the time the employee spends working from his or her mobile device?

Introduction

The workplace has witnessed many changes and a shifting landscape in the last decade.  Ten years ago, the idea of introducing Wi-Fi technologically rocked businesses nationwide and yet, today, you are disappointed if your local café does not offer free and fast Wi-Fi.  In 2013, technology is evolving faster than businesses can keep up, and one rapidly developing phenomenon is the introduction of personal mobile devices—smartphones, tablets, and the like—into the workplace.

Companies seeking to improve efficiency and employee interaction for work purposes have slowly begun to implement policies allowing employees to use laptops, tablets, and mobile devices in the work place.  The ability to use mobile devices for instant access into work files, to communicate with coworkers and clients from anywhere, and to encourage prompt responses to work requests and emails are all incentives for companies to embrace mobile devices in businesses.

The intriguing but sometimes troubling issue, however, arises in many cases where employees have been permitted to use personal devices in these instances, a policy cleverly coined as “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device.  Business owners across the country are voicing concerns with such policies; specifically, how to properly and efficiently implement them.

Employee Payment

One issue that arises with BYOD policies is with regard to the employee’s compensation.  First, who will pay for the actual device?  The monthly service fee?  If the employer will pay, in whole or in part, for the device, how will payments be made (or allocated, where necessary)?  Moreover, what about the time the employee spends working from his or her mobile device?  The Fair Labor Standards Act maintains rigorous policies for the payment of all hourly paid workers and thus, any work done under such standards would necessitate strict timekeeping.    In the case of an hourly employee, employers must ensure that employees log their time with accuracy and review their device logs before submission each pay period.  For the stated reason, many experts beginning to familiarize themselves with BYOD policy suggest that employers limit mobile devices for work solely to salary-paid employees to which the Fair Labor Standards Act (or similar laws) does not apply.  Otherwise, employers must put in place policies that provide for strict and accurate monitoring and regulation of all activity and logging by employees who bring a device to work.

Cyber Security

One worldwide issue under increasing scrutiny also applies here in the realm of Cyber Security.  (See previous blog posting about Wyndham Worldwide regarding cyber security and its intricate workings in business)  Obviously, the possibility for employees to use their own devices for work related activity raises a plethora of concerns over both private and professional security.  Can an employer limit an employee’s use of his own device?  What company access permissions are granted to a BYOD employee?  How can the employer ensure its private or confidential information remains that way while allowing a bring your own device policy?  Vast measures must be taken in order to educate employees on how to safeguard the potentially valuable information on a device being brought back and forth between home and work.  Needless to say, password protection, firewall protection, and consistently updated virus software are minimal security requirement, and an IT expert should be enlisted when BYOD is being implemented and used.  Employers should also be aware, and speak with legal experts, regarding their own local or state laws that could protect employees’ privacy in different scenarios.  One such instance is in the matter of a lost or stolen device, as a company may not have control over the data on the device without the employee’s written consent.  This is an issue that an employer would benefit from having set into writing before the policy would go into effect.

Conclusion

These are highlights of just a few issues that require any business considering a BYOD program to first speak with a legal expert.  At Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt, we can walk business owners through the questions, concerns, and pitfalls that accompany implementing any new employee policy, including BYOD.   We are able to assist business owner and management in drafting sound policies that allow companies to utilize and benefit from BYOD, while also protecting themselves.  The lawyers at Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt are sensitive to the unique needs of each of its clients, and for that reason, can provide insightful and efficient solutions..

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