• Specific Smart Phone Policies Now Recommended
  • July 18, 2014
  • Law Firm: Kaufman Canoles A Professional Corporation - Norfolk Office
  • Not long ago, it was sufficient for an employer to have a general “Internet use” policy. In that simpler time, access to the Internet was generally through employer-owned computer equipment. Today, many companies are adopting the bring-your-own-device (“BYOD”) model. In a BYOD company, the employee uses his or her own smart phone for work, accessing the Internet and receiving and sending work-related emails and texts on that device. In such an environment, the line between work and personal use is blurred. Inappropriate smart phone use can lead to a loss of productivity, office distractions, and wage and hour compliance issues.

    Accordingly, it is a good idea for employers to develop a specific smart phone policy that should have at least the following five provisions:

    Limit personal phone calls and other personal uses. The policy should set restrictions on when and how smart phones can be used for personal reasons. For example, smart phone use can be limited to lunch and breaks, or employees can be given a location to take personal calls. A vague statement such as personal smart phone usage should be “reasonable” is not particularly effective.

    No smart phone use while driving. Require employees to pull over and park before initiating a call, and as soon as possible after taking a call. If avoiding smart phone use is unrealistic, provide employees with safety features like hands-free equipment.

    Minimize workplace distractions. Require employees to set their smart phones to “silent” or “vibrate” in the work place. Prohibit smart phone use in meetings. If an employee must take a call, send a text, or respond to an email, require the employee to leave the meeting. When talking on a smart phone in the work place, the employee should be required to use a low tone of voice.

    Limit smart phone usage in private areas. Remember that almost all smart phones have cameras, video recorders, and audio recorders. This can lead to unwanted mischief in restrooms and changing rooms. This can also lead to potential misappropriation of confidential information or trade secrets if not controlled.

    Permit emergency calls. Employees must be permitted to take emergency calls. Emergency calls, however, should be narrowly defined. Require employees to notify their supervisor if a situation arises that might require smart phone use at any time. Such a situation would include the hospitalization of a family member.