Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 9:56 AM

On the BlackBerry, On the Clock: Overtime Liability in This Connected Age

Do you or someone you know have a BlackBerry, PDA, cell phone with email or text-messaging capability, or other similar device? If so, you know how easy it can be for both employers and employees to communicate about business issues in what traditionally have been considered non-working hours.

With the increasing prevalence of this technology, the boundary between work time and non-work time is becoming more obscure and harder to define. The problem for businesses is that if non-exempt employees, who are eligible for overtime, answer business emails and calls outside of their normal work time, then they are likely performing compensable work for which they should be paid. Experience has shown that both employers and employees tend not to track and document this time, which means that the employees are not being paid for that time, or any resulting overtime.

Those emails and phone calls add up. This recent article by The New York Times reports about one non-exempt employee working for Oprah Winfrey’s production company, who submitted a time sheet documenting more than 800 hours in 17 weeks. That work amounted to $32,000 in overtime pay.

The article does a good job of outlining the situation and the potential consequences for employers—and may be a good tool to begin discussions of what practices and policies your business has in place to address these issues.

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