Many employers provide Blackberries and other remote devices to their employees hoping to increase productivity by allowing the employees to access their email and perform other work from remote places and at odd hours. From a communications standpoint, these devices provide a virtual office to the employee, and also make the employee available at any time. From the employee’s perspective, however, having a Blackberry means never being able to escape the office and the call of work. For employers who are not paying overtime to their employees, the Blackberry might just turn sour when the employee makes a claim for unpaid overtime.
Federal law requires employers to pay all employees overtime pay at one and one half (“time and a half”) of their normal rate of pay for all hours worked beyond forty in a workweek unless the employer can prove that the employee meets a specific exemption. This federal mandate includes many workers who are paid both on an hourly or a salary basis. Many employers, however, misclassify their employees as exempt when, in fact, they are entitled to overtime pay. In year’s past, employees who worked overtime hours away from the office often had difficulty proving that they performed this work. The Blackberry, however, can be used to show that the employer performed this work. For instance, an employee who receives a draft document attached to an email, edits and revises the document, and then sends the revised document to other employees by email has a digital record of the time spent working on that document. Thus, the Blackberry can be used as a “time clock” of sorts, as it reflects an accurate record of the time spent working where none would have existed in the past. For many employees who have been misclassified as exempt from federal overtime pay requirements, and are forced to work significant overtime work, the Blackberry might just be a blessing in disguise.