Technology is increasingly leading to a blurring of the distinction between on-duty and off-duty time for many employees in diverse industries across the country. In the "old days," before work could easily sift into an employee's home after hours via cell phone, e-mail and other devices, there was seldom a controversy concerning when a worker's day began and ended.
That clear demarcation is no longer readily apparent for many people, and claims that employers are using technological innovations to require workers to do what is essentially unpaid overtime work while off company premises and after stated work hours are increasing.
Take the representative case of Chicago Police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen, who, until recently, was a veteran in the city's gang-investigations unit. Allen has just sued Chicago in federal court, alleging that he worked many additional overtime hours during his off-duty time on his department-issued BlackBerry. Allen wants his money, and his lawsuit seeks overtime pay for similarly situated officers as well.
BlackBerry use seems to be a common theme in many unpaid-overtime complaints, along with work done on other "smartphones" and PDAs. Sean J. Rogers, a labor arbitrator, says that these devices leave behind an electronic trail of evidence that makes it hard for an employer to argue that an employee wasn't doing work when he or she actually was.
Says Allen's lawyer: "We have reached a point in society where it's very easy to get a whole lot of unpaid work from employees just by the use of these devices." Allen's lawsuit, and suits brought by others, seek to put an end to that practice.
Related Resource: suntimes.com "Cop sues city, seeks overtime for BlackBerry use" July 31, 2010