Workers Want To Be Paid For Overtime Worked On Their BlackBerries

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The BlackBerry was quickly nicknamed the crackberry because of its addictive qualities.  But many call it by another name: the leash.  And now that smart phone use has become ubiquitous, the lawsuits commeth.

The Wall Street Journal reports on two separate lawsuits filed by employees and former employees of T Mobile and CB Ellis claiming they were required to respond to messages, via their company-issued cell and smart phones, outside of their scheduled work hours. 

WSJ:  The federal Fair labour Standards Act says employees must be paid for work performed off the clock, even if the work was voluntary. When the law was passed in 1938, “work” was easy to define for hourly employees, said Mr. McCoy. As the workplace changed, so did the rules for when workers should be paid…

With smart phones, which typically provide Internet access and email as well as voice calling, “the boundaries become much more permeable” and work is difficult to monitor, said Christina Banks, a senior lecturer at the University of California Berkeley and president of Lamorinda Consulting LLC.

The outcome of the case will of course depend on company policies and the egregiousness of the work required (if any) without subsequent pay. And lawyers not-related to the suits point out to the WSJ that companies should develop policies for smart phone use and compensation.

It is not clear from the article if the suing employees were hourly or salaried, but perhaps the companies could look to their own attorneys — some of the highest paid hourly workers of all — for a fine example of what constitutes work. 

As a former hourly-biller myself, I am willing to guarantee that the companies’ big firm lawyers will be charging for each .1 hour spent reading and responding to emails.  And they will certainly expect to be paid.

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