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Curbing Personal Cell Phone Use In The Workplace

While cell phones can speed work-related communications when employees are out of the office, workers’ personal use of their mobile devices while on-the-clock has become the top “productivity killer” for business.

According to a June 9, 2016 Career Builder survey, eight out of ten workers have smartphones and most keep them within eye contact while on the job.  Employee personal use of their phones for calls, texts, email, social media, and online entertainment during work hours is thus a legitimate and significant concern for employers.

Although California and many other states regulate cell phone usage while driving (see California Cell Phone Law: Keep Your Eyes on the Road, Your Hands Upon the Wheel), there are currently no regulations governing an employee’s access and/or personal use of cell phones during company time. However, employers can and should implement policy to address this problem.

For example, some employers have gone so far as to entirely ban cell phones from company premises. Others simply restrict use of cell phones during working hours, but allow access for emergencies and during meal and rest breaks. Some employers may choose to address the situation only when a particular employee’s productivity is clearly suffering or that employee is acting as a distraction to others. Another solution is to limit Wi-Fi access on company premises to deter employees from using their smartphones due to concerns about exceeding personal data limits.

Employers should decide what restrictions on cell phone usage would be best for their workplace environment and culture, and then create a consistent and comprehensive written policy to reflect this.

For further information, please contact one of our attorneys: Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

September 14, 2016