PERSONNEL Cell phones What can an employer legally do about by oldirty



Cell phones
create workplace
challenges                                                                                     By Ron Lehman

What can an employer legally do
about new telephones and technology?
                                                      Art by Jason Evan Lee

          ell phones at work are a growing con-

C         cern. On one hand, many employees
          believe they have an inalienable right to
have personal cell phones on and ready to be
answered at all times, regardless of the workload.
On the other, employers have a number of legit-
imate concerns about these devices, including
loss of productivity, potential employer liability
for traffic accidents caused by employees talking
on cell phones while making job-related calls,
invasion of co-workers’ privacy by taking inap-
propriate photos with camera phones, and
transmission of images of new products, trade
secrets or other sensitive information.

The flexible approach
   First and foremost, there is nothing in any
federal or state law forcing employers to allow
employees to bring personal cell phones onto
company premises at any time. Many employ-            prevent inappropriate cell phone use — espe-                            Sample policy
ers flatly ban personal cell phones in the work-      cially the use of camera phones — thereby                                   Page 56
place and require employees to leave their            protecting their own proprietary interests and
phones in their vehicles and make personal            the confidentiality and privacy concerns of their
calls during authorized breaks or lunch hours         workers. Some employers have addressed the
only. That’s a perfectly permissible, legal posi-     issue by:
tion for an employer to take.                            • Requiring employees to leave cell phones
   But if you don’t want to issue a flat prohibi-     at their desks or in their purses during work
tion on personal cell phones at work (or don’t do     hours or when attending company meetings
so until an employee flagrantly violates whatever     or seeing clients or vendors, and allowing all
reasonable company policy you decide to               calls to go to voice mail. Calls may be returned
adopt), you have the flexibility to approach this     at breaks and on lunch hours.
issue in a number of ways and impose some                • Allowing employees to carry cell phones
common-sense policies.                                in vibrate mode in case an emergency arises
   Companies have taken a number of steps to          that needs immediate attention.

                                                               March 2008   NMPRO • Nursery Management & Production   55

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