- Security, for both the devices and the information contained on them.
- Personal use of the devices and privacy expectations
- Use of these devices by non-exempt employees and payment of overtime.
As we have seen in several news stories about stolen government laptops this is certainly an issue. So you need to have some policy and procedure statement that covers leaving these devices laying about for someone else to pick up. This should probably contain some statement about use in WIFI hotspots and use of a firewall. Get your techies to help on that.
If you issue business devices for business use do you allow personal use of those devices as well? Ideally not, that would make it cleaner to deal with. But that is not practical in the real world. You cannot expect your traveling employees to carry two computers so that they will be able to do personal things at night. If you have employees who are gone all week long they need to communicate with family and the bank and their doctors, etc. But you need to have a policy that does let them know that it is a company owned machine and as a result they should have no expectation of privacy and that all information on the machine is subject to review by the company if it is deemed necessary. This expectation of privacy also needs to apply to company owned phones and texting devices. All of that information is recoverable and employees need to be aware of that fact.
The train wreck I alluded to in the title is with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA requires that all non-exempt employees (both hourly and salaried non-exempt employees) be paid for time worked more than 40 hours in a week (in some state and local jurisdictions for more than 8 hours in a day). This means if you have a non-exempt employee with a company issued laptop/Blackberry/phone and they are checking email, working on projects, etc. you have to track all their time and then compensate them for the overtime. This can get very complicated, particularly if those devises are used for personal things.
We have learned that it is human nature that when an email pops up it gets read, especially on a Blackberry (that is why they are referred to as a “Crackberry.”) Few of us ignore that late night email or that after-hours call. The law does allow some “de minimus” use that take up insignificant time. However, if that time starts adding up it then becomes compensible. So you need to set up a policy on the use of those devices and recording that time. If it is going to put someone into an overtime situation then you need to have some approval process in place to make sure OT does not run rampent. It is expensive.
This stuff can get so complicated sometimes that it discourages employers from issuing those devices to non-exempt employees. This can create a “digital divide” in our employee groups. So be careful of your reaction to this. The law can be a roadblock to a technologically productive workforce if you let it be. Perhaps it is time for an other overall of the FLSA. But don’t hold your breath. With the influence of unions on the government it is not going to happen.