Are You Setting Yourself Up for a Lawsuit?

Non-exempt employees feel they should be compensated for time spent working on their BlackBerries after hours. It's a hard call.

Be careful who you dole out mobile technology to. Turns out some non-exempt employees feel they should be compensated for time spent working on their BlackBerries after hours.

It's a hard call. "Work" time and "off" time are blending in such a way that it's hard to say when you're working and when you're not. Are you working if you're checking email on a mobile phone from your kids' baseball game? Are you working if you're checking email from the super market check-out isle?

Some people think they are, and are tussling with their employers about being compensated for that time. CNBC reports that companies need to exercise caution when handing out BlackBerries or other work-related mobile technology because it can lead to problems.

The problem doesn't stem from exempt workers, who are paid an annual salary no matter how many hours they work, but from non-exempt employees, who are often paid by the hour. If a non-exempt employee spends an hour doing emails on their BlackBerry while at home, he or she could be entitled to reimbursement for the time, depending on your company's policies on use of technology in and out of the workplace. Jennifer Feldman, an employment law attorney at WolfBlock, says the best way to handle it is to stop giving BlackBerrys to non-exempt employees.

But it's not that simple. Often, non-exempt employees must have access to mobile email the same as exempt employees. If that's the case, attorneys who specialize in workplace issues suggest that your company clearly define when it is appropriate to use mobile technology and when it is not.

They haven't been any lawsuits from non-exempt employees seeking back-pay yet. But lawyers think it will only be a matter of time before the issue is raised in court. Be sure you're taking the right steps to protect your organization from such a lawsuit.