The risks involved in allowing staffers to use their personal smartphones and tablets for work are more than just an IT issue. Here’s why it’s time for HR to pay attention to the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon.
The BYOD trend is gaining steam, and more staffers are doing work on their personal smartphones and tablets at any time and from any place.
In fact, companies will be spending 48% more on managing smartphone use this year compared to 2011, according to Osterman Research.
But the risks and costs involved with establishing and enforcing a BYOD policy don’t just concern IT – they’re also a problem for HR.
Here are three HR issues inherent in adopting a BYOD policy and ways to minimize your liability, courtesy of Joseph Beachboard, who spoke recently at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference in Atlanta.
Wage and hour issues
Every HR pro knows non-exempt workers must be paid for any work they do, authorized or not.
That’s why many firms don’t give these staff members company-owned devices like smartphones – that way, no work can be done off the clock.
But exempt staffers who use their own devices for work can still manage to get their companies in big trouble.
Example: An employee is on a leave of absence. While out, she occasionally does work on her smartphone or tablet, accessing email and checking in on projects.
If the employee does work for more than a de minimis amount of time – typically lasting longer than a couple minutes – she may be entitled to an entire week’s pay.
Takeaway: Unless approved, prohibit exempt staff on unpaid leave or other unpaid absences from spending more than a de minimis amount of time doing work.
Every company prohibits sexual harassment — and has an anti-harassment policy to back it up.
But what many companies have found is that when employees use their own devices for work communication, some rules and policies somehow go out the window.
The major problem spot for HR: texting.
Staff are likely to treat their texts even more casually than their emails.
In some cases, that’s led to situations where a staffer texts something sexually explicit to another worker. That’s come to be known, cheekily, as “textual harassment.”
Though you can’t track or trace these texts like you can company emails, the recipient can clearly save those texts – which would serve as Exhibit A in court if you’re sued for sexual harassment.
As part of both your BYOD policy and your anti-harassment training, reiterate that staffers must use good judgment when communicating with colleagues on their personal devices.
Company info on personal devices
Every employer has policies in place for recovering company property and info from staffers who leave or who’ve been fired.
In the past, that’s meant things like keys, computers and company-owned devices like phones.
But if firms have adopted a BYOD policy, that means it’s also likely sensitive company info may be on a staffer’s own smartphone or tablet.
Unlike with company devices, wiping a staffer’s personal cell phone or tablet comes with a whole host of legal issues.
Plus, you may need to retrieve that info for record retention reasons – or if the communication is covered under a litigation hold.
- Limit the situations where info is stored on staffers’ personal devices.
- When you do allow storage, have a careful record of what’s retained.
- Require staffers to sign a release when hired saying they understand you may need to recover data from their phones at their time of exit.
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