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Your Phone is Ringing: The Legal Complications of Using a Personal Cell Phone for Work

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2016 | Firm News

In today’s business world, employers expect their employees to respond to calls, texts and emails 24 hours a day. This creates both problems and potential legal issues for both the employer and employee in deciding how and when a personal cell phone is to be used for work purposes.

Using a personal cell phone for work purposes has its mutual benefits, namely:

• The employee doesn’t have to carry more than one phone
• The employer doesn’t have to pay for a separate phone and phone service when the employee already has a functioning phone.

Like any relationship, it’s all good as long as it’s going well. Legal complications occur when there is a dispute between the employer and the employee. For example, the employee is terminated and the employer asks that all the information related to the business be erased from the employee’s phone.

Questions arise, such as:

• How does the employer know if the employee erased the business’s information?
• What rights does the employer have to obtain and remove any sensitive business information from the employee’s phone?
• What if the employee uses that information to start a competing business?
• What if the employee has incriminating photos of the CEO from the Christmas party?

The question of who owns what on whose phone can lead to both litigation and liability disputes.

The best course of action is for an employee to have a separate cell phone that is dedicated to business use only. This prevents the comingling of business and personal information that can result in disputes down the road. This is all negotiable, but this course of action in particular will prevent problems of access, possession and rights of inspection that can take place when an employee uses their personal phone for business purposes. If you want to learn more about this  issue or if you are an employee  or employer with questions about these and other personnel issues contact me to discuss.