The most comprehensive resource available for human resources professionals providing HR news, white papers, custom research answers, webinars and OnDemand programs on the hottest HR topics,...
By Hassan Kanu
Dec. 15 — A Chicago Police Department policy requiring officers to be available via smart-phones for work-related e-mails and phone calls while off-duty doesn't expose the city to liability for unpaid overtime, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held Dec. 10.
The department has a mechanism for officers to claim payment for overtime, and the 51 officers who joined the class action couldn't show that an unwritten policy to deny payment for off-duty work performed on their work-issued Blackberries existed, Judge Sidney Schenkier said. The court dismissed the officers' Fair Labor Standards Act claim.
The officers' attorney, Paul D. Geiger of Northfield, Ill., told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 15 that the class intends to appeal. The city's representatives couldn't be reached for comment.
Any employer that requires workers to use portable devices like smart-phones for work “is susceptible to the ruling, and workplace policies should reflect this,” Kenneth M. Willner of Paul Hastings LLP in Washington told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 15.
Given the ubiquity of personal devices and how commonplace similar off-duty policies have become, the decision and impending appeal potentially carry very broad implications.
“The decision clarifies what employers should do, and the judge spoke to several things that are of central importance in these types of cases,” Willner told Bloomberg BNA. “One is that employers generally aren't liable if they establish procedures for overtime payment; on the other hand, that won't necessarily get employers off the hook if employees can show an unwritten policy” to deny overtime compensation.
Another is that employees must show more than “some general discouragement of overtime being incurred, but rather that a discouragement of payment for incurred overtime” is happening.
There are two sorts of policies needed to avoid these situations, and they must be consistent, Willner said. “First is a wage and hour policy which must say that if you do work that isn't recorded in the usual way, there is a mechanism by which you can report and be paid, and that mechanism must be reasonable.”
Such a policy should “specifically encourage” employees to report all overtime, Willner said.
“Second is a personal device policy that clearly states when workers shouldn't use devices” and that workers should report time “whenever they use devices for work purposes that aren't minimal.”
For more information, see Compensation and Benefits Library's FLSA Exemptions chapter.
To contact the reporter on this story: Hassan Kanu in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at email@example.com
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)