Does Answering Emails On My Phone Count as Overtime?

In the 21st century, many employees are being “gifted” with free smartphones by their employers, with the expectation that they’ll use the phone to do work more effectively. Instead, there’s a hidden demand to do work for free. More and more workers are being expected to monitor and answer calls and emails well past their normal work hours.

Stories about employers like T-Mobile or the Chicago Police Department have been reported by the news over the past two years, revealing that non-exempt employees are working anywhere from 12 hours a month to 12 hours a week outside of their normal 8-hour workday. For some employees, that amounts to more than a month of unpaid work a year—enough to undo the most generous company’s paid leave policy.

But does work-related phone use fall under overtime? The short answer is yes—but unofficially, for now.

Lawsuits charging businesses with requiring extra work hours without overtime pay have started increasing in number through 2014 and 2015. However, virtually all of these cases are being settled out-of-court because businesses would rather provide back wages than face a legal battle. As a result, there are very few court decisions regarding this issue—just payouts.

One high-profile court decision legitimized the use of phones as a valid reason to file an overtime claim. A class action case filed last year involved 51 police officers suing the Chicago Police Department for requiring them to monitor their work-issued phones when they were off-duty. While the judge eventually ruled against the officers, ultimately it was because the court recognized that the Department clearly offered overtime pay for use of phones outside of work hours, as long as a supervisor approved it.

When You’re Being Asked to Use Your Phone

If you’re a non-exempt employee (which is discussed in a previous blog), your workplace should have a policy in place regarding your overtime benefits. If you’ve been asked or expected to use your phone on nights and weekends, keep track of the time you’ve been spending answering texts, calls, and emails. Then, submit an overtime claim.

If your employer disputes your right to overtime wages, bring your time records to my office, Alan Burton Newman, PLC. As a Los Angeles wage & hour attorney, I have extensive experience building cases for employees who have been robbed of overtime benefits. I can make sure you get the wages you deserve, as well as additional compensation from appropriate penalties.

Call (310) 986-2792 for a free consultation today. Most cases are resolved within 90 days, so you can get the money you deserve quickly if you have a valid claim.