Do you deserve overtime pay for that email???

How many times have you answered an email after hours?  Is there such thing as “after hours”?  In today’s mobile society, the blessing and curse of smartphones and email is the level of accessibility. Employers are able to capitalize on this accessibility and reach new heights of productivity. When the amount of time an employee is inaccessible is decreased to maybe the time they are sleeping, companies experience increased productivity and near 24/7 operation.  Why not take full advantage?

Great for them not necessarily for us. Now that this level of accessibility is the norm, it is hard to set limits on when you can and cannot be reached without potentially limiting your upward mobility within the company. In this hyper competitive job market, we all know that the smallest things can make the largest difference. No one can afford to lose their competitive edge because they refused to answer an email after 6pm.

Sgt. Jeffrey Allen is suing the City of Chicago for answering his “required to use” department Blackberry when he’s off-duty.  And he’s not the first. Jason Swart and Justin Foley, officers in Yorktown Police Department’s K-9 Unit, have sued the Town of Yorktown for additional overtime incurred while caring for their police dogs.

These suits bring up an interesting conundrum that we often face because the law is always significantly behind technology.  Employment & labor laws do address this kind of issue. One email should not qualify for overtime especially if it is a brief and easy response; but at what point does responding to emails and phone calls outside of working hours violate the rights of employees? How do you quantify the number of emails that result in an hour of overtime or the depth of thought necessary when responding? Can an employee charge for every tenth of an hour used or should they wait until they’ve done at least 30 minutes of outside work?  And what will be the response of employers? Is the chance for overtime worth sacrificing a salary and likely having your base pay cut to account for potential overtime?  If you begin to nickel and dime your employer, will they adopt the same approach? How will that manifest itself? Decreased flexibility? Strict time requirements for assignments? Less incentives?

This could become a hot button issue as technology continues to penetrate the lives of employees and as employers seek to control such use both inside and outside the office.

What do you think?

 

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