Thursday, May 21, 2015

WSJ article raises issue of overtime pay for taking smartphone emails off duty, when exempt

The Wall Street Journal has an article Thursday by Lauren Weber, on whether employers are liable for overtime if they require employees to answer emails (mostly now on company-issued smartphones) off hours, link here.
The distinction is, of course, whether the employee is “exempt” (salaried), when he or she is not.  Over time, the Labor Department has tended to narrow its interpretation of the FLSA.  The article gives some good examples. 
Computer programmers who are paid salaries to maintain in-house applications have typically been regarded as exempt, and not paid for being on-call.  Employers, as a matter of practicality, often give comp time when associates respond to production problems.  Sometimes they give higher raises. 
Tension occurs when some employees are unable to complete work because of family issues, and other employees (sometimes childless, for example) take up the slack without being compensated.  This is a possible argument against mandatory paid family leave.
Employees who work under W-2 agreements at client sites for personnel firms probably would get paid for answering correspondence off hours, but this would be closely watched.  
When employers issue smartphones and laptops or tablets, conflict issues can occur with travel, with personal use of these resources.  I've always used only my own resources when on the road (except for a US Census laptop once; on that trip, I carried my own laptop and the Census one, both, but used only my own cell phone.) 

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