BlackBerry Overtime

Ever make a work- related call or send an email from your Smartphone when you weren’t actually “on the clock”? Most people seem to be doing that these days, especially in busy Atlanta.

You may very well be entitled to overtime pay for those activities, under some circumstances, as a new term has just leaped into the legal lexicon in the last few months-“BlackBerry Overtime,” currently used to describe work- related, electronic communications activities done from remote communication devices outside of official work time.

This is a very new area of the law, but it may be one that is about to get bigger. Employers often ask employees to run errands and do favors outside of regular work hours without compensation. The advent of continual emailing can only make that problem worse.

The most notable BlackBerry Overtime situation to this point concerned writers working for ABC in New York last summer.

ABC News ran into a problem with the Writers’ Guild of America when the company wanted three new writers to sign a waiver saying they would not be paid for checking their company-issued BlackBerrys after normal working hours. ABC responded to the Guild’s resistance to this waiver by taking away all writers’ company-issued BlackBerrys.

After negotiations with their union, ABC agreed to pay overtime to writers who put in “substantial work” out of regular work hours, but not just for the occasional email or bright idea. The writers got their BlackBerrys back.

What about actually working from home? Last July, an employee working at home with a BlackBerry filed suit against Verizon Communications and a subcontractor, alleging failure to pay overtime. The plaintiff is a “personal account manager” who agreed to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, a total of 72 hours a week. He works from home using a company-provided BlackBerry.

The case is still in litigation.

If you have any questions as to whether or not your emails and other electronic communications qualify for overtime pay, contact us.