Monday, August 16, 2010
A couple of years ago Jeff blogged about wage and hour lawsuits created by the wave of employer-issued Blackberry and other PDA devices. At the time, it seemed unlikely that we'd see many of these suits for two reasons: 1. most people who are issued a PDA by an employer tended to be professional or executive employees, exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions; and 2. fear of retaliation would deter employees from complaining.
Indeed, it's taken a couple of years for a high-profile case to hit the press. Now, a Chicago police sergeant has brought a class action against the city seeking compensation for overtime connected with his Blackberry use. According to an NPR story on the case,
Chicago police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen argues his connection means the city of Chicago owes him lots of overtime. His attorney Paul Geiger says it's a simple case.
"What we are saying is he's using this mobile device at the behest of the Police Department very routinely and very often off duty and not being compensated for all the time spent on the device doing the city's work," Geiger says.
Allen is an hourly employee, and if what his attorney says about the circumstances is correct, the City is likely in for a big bill. This isn't the first case arising out of PDA use, but it may be the first public sector case. It's a good reminder for employers who don't want to pay overtime to caution non-exempt employees not to use the PDA they are issued when they are off duty.
Hat tip: David Yamada
And employers might want to get away from issuing PDAs entirely in any event to maximize the quality of work employees can perform. The New York Times has this really interesting story about a group of neuroscientists who took a trip that would leave them unconnected from technology for a week, in part to understand how heavy use of digital devices changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.