Hourly employees and their smartphones: Hidden overtime?

Mon Feb 11 2019

The law requires that all hourly employees be paid for all hours worked. But with today's technology, it is difficult to keep track of those employees who use their smartphones "off work hours" for "work duties;” those hours must be paid! The separation of work life and personal life is becoming more transparent as employers and employees resort to working remotely on their smartphones and other technological devices. Employees who are paid by the hour, and who respond to business emails and calls after their shifts are over are technically working “overtime” hours and need to be compensated for that.

It is a good HR practice to have a few policies in your employee handbook outlining the guidelines that hourly employees must follow. Ensure that hourly employees adhere to their posted work schedules and do not work any additional hours without your explicit prior approval; especially overtime hours (hours worked in excess of 8 hours a day, or 40 hours in a designated workweek). Address how hours are paid within your employee handbook.

If employees do not follow your policy, you will still need to pay them for the time when using their cell phones for work purposes; but you can then exercise progressive discipline to coach the employee NOT to use their cell phone off work hours. Employees should abide by company policies. However, if they fail to do so, necessary progressive disciplinary action should be put into effect. Don’t allow employees to take advantage of hidden overtime hours by utilizing their cell phones during off work hours.

Any hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a day, or 40 hours in a workweek must be paid at time and a half - Double time should be paid if the employee works more than 12 hours in a work day. Make sure your employees report “all hours worked”, so that you can pay them accordingly, and remain in compliance with wage and hour laws.

We can help craft a comprehensive cellular phone policy so that all of your employees know what is expected of them! Having all your employment policies and procedures written in the employee handbook can protect you against litigated complaints; it becomes your backup documentation. Keep record of your conversations with those employees who violate your policies. Regardless, you will have to pay for hours worked, even if those overtime hours that were not approved by you in advance – that’s the law!