I was in a court proceeding recently involving a termination. The proof consisted of numerous text messages between the employee and a manager. It struck me as we sorted through the electronic discussion just how much communication occurs in the job setting via text message.
It is a good idea to review your employment policies to make sure that they contemplate all the different types of electronic communication that are being used in your workplace. Do you specify how an employee must give notice about attendance or request time off? Odds are, you have some employees requesting time off via text. If you require a more formal means, you’d best spell it out in your policy. Do you have a communications tree for getting information disseminated? If so, it is likely that text messages will go to cell phones rather than phone calls to home land lines. Does your harassment policy make clear that harassment can occur via text messages (not to mention photos and videos sent via text)?
You get the picture. This is definitely an area of communications that has changed profoundly in the last decade. Make sure your policies have changed with the times.
If your employees receive company information or can access company resources via cell phone or other device, then you need a policy that outlines expectations and actions. You should consider:
- Requiring password protection
- Restricting access to critical proprietary information
- Creating a procedure for lost device including report to company and ability to wipe data
- Developing a procedure for removal of data at end of employment
- Ensuring consistency with other computer usage policies
- Covering after-hours work on company matters by non-exempt employees
- Defining expectations of privacy and what may be accessed or removed by employer
There are other issues, and interplay with your existing policies and practices is important. As with all policies, the specifics should be tailored to your business needs.
The use of dual-purpose electronic devices in the workplace, from smartphones to tablets to laptops, has exploded. This use creates legal risks for employers. When the devices are employee-owned, use for both personal and work purposes has become the norm.
Employers are advised to consider the security of business information that is accessible to or stored on those devices. Regardless of ownership, individual privacy rights for the employee also become an issue when devices are used for personal matters. Employers must develop and implement policies and procedures to address employee use of devices to managing the risks that arise in and out of the workplace.