Blog by Anna M. Pepelnjak
In March, 2009, plaintiff John Rulli filed a “collective action” claim against his employer, CB Richard Ellis, Inc., in federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Rulli, a non-exempt maintenance employee, alleged that he and other employees were given “PDA’s” such as Blackberrys and smart phones, “so that they could access work-related emails, voice mails and work orders regardless of their location” 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Rulli claimed that he and others were not compensated for the time spent on these tasks, even though the company required them to respond to such messages within 15 minutes of receipt. Among other things, Rulli demanded to be paid the unpaid overtime he asserted was due him, liquidated damages, costs, actual attorneys’ fees and pre- and post-judgment interest. While the case was pending, Judge Magistrate Patricia Gorence conditionally certified an “opt-in” class of similarly situated employees. In September, 2011, the case settled on a confidential basis.
The lesson for employers whose employees are required to use smart phones away from the workplace is that the FLSA may require payment of time and a half for such activities. Failure to track and pay such wages to eligible employees could expose the employer to significant damages on the state and federal level. In order to protect against such claims, employers may establish policies requiring prior approval of remote work and/or employee tracking and reporting of such work. As always, proper training and dissemination of these policies is key to their enforcement.
The comments and opinions expressed in this blog are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Reading or using the information in this blog does not create the existence of an attorney-client privilege. Due to the changing nature of the law, the blog posts may contain dated material. For an update on the current law and the application of the law to your particular facts and circumstances, consult a legal advisor. The information contained herein is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your state.