Policies are designed to provide employers control and employees consistency. Ideally, supervisors receive policy training to provide guidance to employees prior to issues arising. Today, it’s difficult to keep up with the consequences of workplace technology. The world is becoming turbulent faster than companies are becoming resilient, according to management guru, Gary Hamel.
Usage of personal cell phones with cameras, non-work use of e-mail and the Internet, and illegal downloads of software onto company equipment are areas sometimes neglected in handbooks and policy manuals until issues arise.
The National Labor Relations Board decision (see Legislative Update) demonstrates the legal control employers have over their equipment. Employers need to clearly communicate their ownership to defend themselves against litigation, and equipment, information and financial loss.
Electronically stored information (ESI) is included in federal retention and discovery rules, with which employers must comply. Companies that are aware of this, have incorporated e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging and Internet (viewing and downloads) in policies related to harassment, discrimination and confidentiality. Many employers use filters to monitor compliance. For those who have considered monitoring employees, a 2005 Gallop Organization report determined that on average, employees use computers 75 minutes a day for non-work activity.
Many companies chose not to forbid personal use of the Internet, email and telephones. Instead, they ask employees to use a rule of reason. This offers employees a work/life balance benefit allowing on- line banking or shopping while at work. If Internet use is suspected as a cause of a declining performance, the supervisor should look into the situation; steering clear of diagnoses and focusing on performance. A few companies offer Employee Assistance Programs for Internet addiction; an affliction not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
Every employer must understand how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) fits with use of company-issued cell phones, laptops and PDAs or personal equipment being used by non-exempt employees. Employers are required to pay a non- exempt employee for all the time the employee is working. The FSLA requires payment regardless of whether the employee was instructed to accomplish tasks or not. According to the concept of continuous workday, a non-exempt employee should be paid for the drive to and/or from work if a call into work was made while driving or the Blackberry was checked for messages. It is essential to keep related policies and supervisory training current.
Employers’ Checklist Should Include: