Do You Get Paid for Working on Your Mobile Devices Outside of Office Hours?

One of the major upsides of mobile technology is that you can work anywhere. One of the major downsides of mobile technology is that you can work anywhere.

I remember when I was interviewing for my first job out of college. Company cell phones and laptops were touted as “benefits.” It wasn’t until I started working tons of extra hours that I realized these gadgets benefited the company much more so than myself.

I know that in this economy a lot of people would love to be overworked by a company rather than being unemployed, but at least some companies are taking advantage of employees by tethering them to work with smartphones and computers.

The Wall Street Journal published an article today that discusses two lawsuits filed on behalf of employees that weren’t paid for the hours spent on calls and responding to work-related messages on smartphones after clocking out for the day. Where do you draw the line?

The current and former T-Mobile employees say they were required to use company-issued smart phones to respond to work-related messages, including customer complaints, after hours without pay. When the workers reported the hours to management of the cellphone company, the lawsuit says, the employees were told nothing could be done and they should expect to work extra hours as part of T-Mobile’s “standard business practices.”

My father, and many of his colleagues that work in the construction field, have no qualms about picking up work-related phone calls after hours. But they also jot down a note to remind themselves to tack that time onto their timecards at the end of the week or bill somebody for it. If they call comes on a weekday after hours they get paid time and a half, on weekends it’s double time.

When I used to work in a corporate job it was expected that you check your email before and after work. If a boss had a question about a deal or project he had no problems calling during dinner time or over the weekend. There was no such thing as overtime. The same goes for just about everyone that I know that works in the corporate world. They take calls, respond to emails and complete projects from home, but don’t get paid a dime for pulling all nighters away from the office.

Technically (at least in California) workers are supposed to be paid for each hour they work, unless they are exempt managers. But in a lot of offices everyone except entry-level workers are labeled as managers and paid a fixed salary, despite the fact that the only thing they “manage” are themselves. This can lead to awkward instances of entry level employees getting paid more than those with several years of experience for the same hours of work.

In some lines of work, being “on call” is expected, but I don’t think it’s fair for companies to reign over every last waking moment of employees’ lives without fairly compensating them.

How does your company treat your time away from the office and do they have policies for compensating you when you’re using a mobile device outside of normal work hours?

5 Comments

  1. TateJ

    08/11/2009 at 10:13 pm

    My company is very good about this. If I work billable overtime, I get paid for it. If I work on overtime tasks that are billed to overhead, i do not get paid. To me, this is fair. And they provide the laptop and the blackberry. If I use my personal computer for work realted tasks, they will support it.

    Reply

  2. DG

    08/12/2009 at 7:57 am

    As a software developer, every job I’ve held has labelled me an exempt employee. I do not get paid for overtime, but I do get docked for undertime if the company furloughs employees to save money.

    I have only once been asked to take an unpaid furlough but then come in to work anyway because the project was at a crucial stage. This violates labor laws, but it happens. I refused to do it. I believe this refusal had an impact on my career at that company.

    Reply

    • Xavier Lanier

      08/12/2009 at 10:32 am

      @DG good for you for standing up,but unfortunately unpaid work does make employees stand out when it’s time for promotions in good times or being able to keep a job during bad times. I’ve heard similar stories in a number of fields.

      Reply

  3. Jason

    08/12/2009 at 11:25 am

    Where I work (medical insurance) we are encouraged to work unoffical overtime. We are never told to work XX hours, but we are given so many tasks that it isn’t possible to complete the work in a standard 40 hour work week. So if you want to look like you are doing your job, you either do the work (and put in the extra time) or fail and suffer the consequences during pay raise time. Been that way for about 11 years.

    Reply

  4. Mark Laris

    08/14/2009 at 7:43 pm

    I am a Nuclear Engineer and have spent almost 30 years working at nuclear power plants. Much of that time I have been in a position that required me to be on-call and fit for duty. This means that bnot only did I have to take calls ans/or come into at all hours but I could not even have a beer. For much of my on-call time I was either the only person qualified for my position or one of only two qualified. This meant that I was on-call between 50% and 100% of the time. All this was for no additional pay. It’s reasonable for a company to expect a little overtime on a regular basis or a lot of overtime once in a while for no pay but is is not reasonable to expect an employee to work a lot of overtime all the time for no pay. There were many years where I would work between 1000 to 1250 hours of unpaid overtime, not including my on-call time. This is standard across the nuclear industry.

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