Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Can't get away from the office

I'm off to vacation starting Friday, and the blog will be going on a brief one-week hiatus. Do vacations even exist anymore? According to Monday's Chicago Tribune, the answer may be no. The article cites a survey from earlier this year by WorkPlace Media, which found that 81% of us check our work-related e-mails or voice mail while on vacation. Of course, this tethering to the office is made much easier by the proliferation of Blackberries and Treos. I know I will be hooked to my Treo from Hilton Head (much to the chagrin of my family) so that I can stay on top of the myriad balls that will inevitably be in the air when I'm out of town.

Our Blackberried workforce raises another interesting question: is time spent outside the office e-mailing from a Blackberry compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act? According to a recent article by Jeffrey M. Schlossberg, Adjunct Professor of Law, Hofstra Law School, time spent outside the office may very well be compensable time, requiring the payment of overtime for non-exempt employees. Mr. Schlossberg correctly argues that because employers provide these technological tools with the understanding that employees will use them during off-work hours, the time spent is probably compensable, subject to a regulation that de minimus time is not necessarily covered. Those of us with smart phones know, however, that the time spent using them is never de minimus, and often obsessive.

For companies that provide Blackberries and other portable e-mail devices to their employees, this issue is one that is definitely worth considering in your next wage and hour audit.