Wearable technology

June 12th, 2018 by hrsimple


In the last year, we have seen a rise in wearable technology.  From the newly released Apple Watch to the spread of Bluetooth devices, it seems that technology is becoming more integrated into our daily lives than ever.  These new advancements are causing people are to view their technology as a permanent accessory and not just a device that is used periodically throughout the day.  Many carry their cellphones constantly in their hands, feeling the need to have them easily accessible at moments notice.  While this shift towards constant technology use can result in higher productivity and better communication, it can also cause a whole mess of problems for employers.  Below are a few issues that can arise out of what experts are calling "wearable technology."

Protecting company information

While convenient and popular with employees, the common practice of allowing employees to use electronic devices throughout the day poses significant risks that require careful management.  The practice results in company information residing on devices/networks that the company does not own or control.  When the security and protection of the company information is left up the discretion of the employee, information may not be as secure as an employer would like it to be. 

Texting during work hours 

There are positives aspects to text messaging that can be applied to the workplace.  For instance, employees could be in an environment where they cannot make a phone call or send an email.  Such an instance may arise in a sales pitch.  Sales personnel might need to send a quick message to someone at the home office to verify a calculation.  Unfortunately, using a telephone to call or a computer to send an email to someone at the home office would likely not be an option during a sales pitch.  Despite the positive aspects of text messages and the sometimes unavoidable reality of text messages, many issues arise as a result of texting in the workplace.

Non working hours

Some supervisors may text their subordinates with a question or assignment after the subordinate has gone home.  Requiring nonexempt employees to handle work-related texts without recording their hours worked could result in litigation under the FLSA involving lost wages, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.  If supervisors frequently text nonexempt employees with work questions or assignments when they are no longer working, the employer could be subject to a FLSA class action. 

Safety

Cellphone use is frequently a distraction.  In an environment with dangerous equipment, employees could injure themselves if they are distracted by their electronic device and thus open the employer up to workers’ compensation claims and liability under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act.  Further, employees who drive while texting could cause an accident, again opening the employer up to workers’ compensation claims or tort liability for third parties injured in the accident.  Finally, certain states, such as California, prohibit texting when driving altogether.  In those states, if employees text while driving, they are not legally compliant.   

Document retention

Text message, brief phone calls, and social media use are generally not routed through an employer’s network meaning that unlike email exchanges, employers often have a difficult time tracking and recording for future reference.  What is said via these outlets may have important business significance and it is up to the employer to instill policies which prompt employees to make records of such information exchanges. 

Alternatively, such exchanges between employees are not documented and if anything illegal or improper transpires employers will have a difficult time getting to the bottom of the matter.



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