It’s something we have all gotten used to, checking and responding to work emails during non-work hours. It helps cut down on the amount of work that needs to be done during the day, as well as increases the speed at which problems are addressed. This can be especially important for smaller companies who rely on each employee in order to run effectively. While blackberries and other hand-held devices can be a great tool for organizations, they can also lead to significant legal problems if employers don’t create guidelines around this kind of work. For exempt employees this is not a problem at all and is becoming more and more the norm. Once this trend begins to extend to non-exempt employees things begin to become a bit more tricky. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, even if employees are not supposed to be doing work after hour, the fact that their emails to and from supervisors are time stamped holds the employer liable for time worked.
One provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act that can help employers with this is the “de minimis” exception. Under this clause, employers do not have to pay employees for time that is small enough to be considered trivial. The problem with this is that the clause does not specify how much time is trivial or distinguish between activities. Generally if the time is somewhere around five minutes you won’t have to pay, however once you begin going beyond ten it becomes less clear. While companies that provide communication devices such as blackberries are most likely to violate this law, any organization that uses email or cell phones to stay in touch are at risk.
Update PoliciesOvertime is mandatory, even if your organization has a policy against working extra hours.
The Importance of Creating an Effective Employee Handbooks lens or go to the HRSentry Homepage.
Lead by ExampleOften times when people receive emails or phone calls during off time they feel as if that is what they should be doing. It is important to make sure that supervisors don't encourage nonexempt employees to work by contacting them, even through email during off hours.
Department of Labor website to read their advice for "on-call" work.
Communicate Only as NeededKeep communication to critical situations only.
Provide Communication Tools for Exempt Employees OnlyKeep the work at work
Enforce Your RulesLearn to say "stop"
University of Texas website. Note that overtime laws differ state to state so consult your state's laws before finalizing any policies.