Society has changed by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. Television sets now require the use of remote controls, many meals can be cooked using only a microwave and work can be completed at any time of day using a tiny, handheld device called a smartphone.
Although smartphones offer employers and employees alike many advantages in the workplace, there are some drawbacks. One problem gaining media attention is the difficulty in determining work hours when employees seem to always be on the job - leading to allegations of unpaid overtime.
Those with smartphones often check work email or the status of projects at night and during the weekends. Unfortunately, it appears this need to feel connected to our jobs is becoming the norm. In some cases, it seems employers may even expect it.
Although it is not always illegal for an employer to expect round the clock access to employees, it can get complicated. This is particularly true when dealing with hourly workers.
Overtime, Smartphones and Hourly Workers
Legal professionals argue that providing hourly workers with smartphones or access to various workplace networks is a way for employers to "implicitly" tell employees to work. Unless companies utilize a system to record the worker's hours and carefully monitor how these technologies are used, the employers could be opening themselves up to a wide array of overtime lawsuits.
One such case is currently in the works involving Amerisave Mortgage Corp. and a group of former employees. The employees allege that they were encouraged by managers to falsify time sheets and adjust their hours downward, never clocking more than 40 hours a week. In some cases, the workers claim the reported 40 hour work week actually took over 90 hours to complete.
Another case involves T-Mobile USA Inc. and employees who claim the company required them to respond to work related emails at any time of day, whether or not they were clocked in.
In many instances, employers are required under The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to pay "not less than time and one-half the employee's regular rate for time worked over 40 hours in a workweek." FLSA includes taking work home and making work-related telephone calls from home within the types of work that can require compensation.
As a result, the employees may have a strong case.