A federal lawsuit in Chicago may change the landscape of how employers use e-mail and smartphones. 200 police officers are suing the city alleging overtime violations for work performed on department requisitioned BlackBerry phones. Officers were expected to respond to e-mails and phone calls on their phones during off-hours. Now they are alleging that this time spent was time worked for which they were not paid and are owed overtime. The officers involved were hourly employees. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime.
If hourly employees have access to e-mail and are “working” during off-hours, employers should address this situation. Employers should also be aware that if employees perform unauthorized overtime work, the time must still be paid but employees may be subject to discipline.
The court in Chicago allowed the lawsuit to proceed holding that there was sufficient merit for it to continue.