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Workplace BlackBerry Use May Spur Lawsuits

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the I've-worked-80-hours-this-week dept.

The Courts 286

An anonymous reader writes "From an article on cnbc.com: 'As employers hand out electronic devices to their employees at a greater pace, there are growing concerns that workers eligible for overtime pay, known as non-exempt employees, could begin suing their employers for overtime hours earned while tapping on their devices during after-work hours. As a result, lawyers are advising their corporate clients to update their policies and handbooks related to BlackBerry use and reconsider who gets a device.'"

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286 comments

Now is about the time... (1)

kellenc (1310809) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128533)

...I wished I wasn't overtime exempt.

Re:Now is about the time... (0, Redundant)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128551)

... I wished I wasn't salaried.

Re:Now is about the time... (2, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129691)

"... I wished I wasn't salaried."

Then DON'T be!!

You don't have to be...I've worked W2, and was hourly, and got OT pay. You can too..just ask for it, or go work where they will let you.

Personally...I'll never work for free ever again. Salaried pay is a rip-off. I don't mind wokring OT, going above and beyond when it is needed, but, I will not do it for free. If you get paid hourly...they will think twice about asking to you to work OT; only when they really need it. Over 40 hours a week should not be 'expected', it should only be required for emergencies and last minute pushes on big deadlines.

Go contracting. I prefer C2C 1099, but, have done W2, but, I negotiate to be hourly with paid OT. Sometimes all you can get out of them is straight time for OT, but, that's still better than free.

Blackberries establish your dominance! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128563)

It clearly separates you from the sheeple and establish your dominance over the herd. It establishes that you're a go-getter, instead of one of those hippies with an iphone.

And everyone knows, blackberries make assholes more versatile [theonion.com].

Turned it down (5, Interesting)

willyhill (965620) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128585)

In 2003-2004 at my previous employer the company rolled out Blackberries to management and "key" personnel. Being responsible for a relatively large part of the infrastructure at this joint, I also got one.

One day I arrived at work and found the messaging group folks had delivered the BBs to some of the people in my area, and there was a box in my desk as well, with a little booklet (the must have cost a fortune to print, it was that well done) with usage policy (of course), instructions and steps for setting it up. The younger kids were besides themselves and already setting up the sync cradles and sending messages to each other. I picked up the phone and called the project manager, who was a friend of mine. I asked him to send one of his people to pick the box up.

"But everyone's getting one."
"I don't care, I don't want it."
"You are on Tier 1 and you're supposed to be on call..."
"I am. I have a cell phone, and if the IPC melts down at 3 AM, someone can call me."
"But this lets you check your email!"
"That's exactly why I don't want it"

A few days of back and forth politik ensued, and eventually my boss relented and let me be. Note that this was the time when the devices could not make phone calls - I hear they can now. Oh joy.

I figured that once I had that thing I'd never be able to get away from it, even on vacation. And that's exactly what happened to everyone else. People won't think twice about sending you an email for stupid little things at 10:00 PM, because they're working and figure everyone else should be as well. But making a phone call is very different, and most people won't do it unless it's something really important. People think it's no big deal because it's just a message. Bullshit.

If the data center is on fire, sure I want to know, no matter what time it is. But I don't want to hear little pings and murmurs from a PDA next to my bed because some VP couldn't find a file for tomorrow's presentation, or a fscking file server is down and Julie in accounting can't get to it. All that can wait until the morning.

If I had taken the thing and ended up in that 24/7/365 situation I don't think I'd sue my employer, but I would have probably ended up leaving a lot sooner than I did. Probably even if I were eligible for overtime. A case of "they ain't paying me enough for this crap" if I ever saw one.

Re:Turned it down (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128727)

I hate to post AC, but whomever modded this "overrated" should be banned from Slashdot.

Re:Turned it down (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128773)

My dad has one for his job, and whenever he comes to visit, it seems like he's answering an email at least once every half hour. I really think it's a great thing for CEOs, and people who really do need and want to be in contact 24 hours a day. But for most people, it's just extreme overkill, and makes the job so much less enjoyable. I think cell phones are good enough. If the problem isn't big enough that you can give the person a proper phone call, then it can probably wait until tomorrow.

If you're not willing to call: it ain't important (1)

charleste (537078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129383)

Having just got off the phone to get a password from someone on vacation... I couldn't agree more. If you don't think it's important enough to wake someone up in New York when you're in California, then it can wait.
OTOTH: When I was supporting a system that was supposed to be 24/7/365 we did have BBs that the Monitoring System would send alerts for down time... if it exceeded X minutes and didn't automagically come back up.... but PEOPLE didn't have the address for the thing. That was fine too. But I would never have wanted my boss to know how to send an email to it.

Re:Turned it down (-1, Flamebait)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128807)

Wow, what a piss poor attitude for someone who's job is to make the rest of the company more efficient. If a fsking fileserver is down you should be freaking fixing it, not waiting till hundreds or thousands of manhours have been wasted the next morning! The server room burning down should be taken care of by a DR plan, I'd probably lose less sleep over a complete meltdown then I would a server puking. Of course I have a YTD 99.994% uptime in a Windows environment where our SLA is only for 99% uptime on a 6-6 M-Sa basis.

Re:Turned it down (5, Informative)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128857)

Why? They don't PAY me for 24/7 support, and it's not end-of-business threatening. If they want it done so bad, they can call my boss and have him call me to fix it, with the understanding that I get a comp day. Period.

I'm not going to let my blackberry wake me up for every little email thrown out.

Re:Turned it down (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129437)

They don't PAY me for 24/7 support,

Then turn off the Blackberry. It DOES have an off switch, right??

Re:Turned it down (2, Insightful)

Shetan (20885) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129605)

So turn the notification off for e-mail. My Blackberry doesn't do anything when an e-mail comes in. When my schedule permits and it is convenient to me, I look to see if I have any new e-mail. Even if I'm on call, the only way the Blackberry is going to wake me up is if someone phones me.

Re:Turned it down (5, Informative)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128951)

If a fsking fileserver is down you should be freaking fixing it, not waiting till hundreds or thousands of manhours have been wasted the next morning!

If the file server is that important, they should have 24/7 staff on-site to keep it running.

You can't complain about the prohibitive cost of having a professional IT staff available all hours and then turn around and say what a financial disaster it would be if they weren't there.

Re:Turned it down (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129335)

Most smaller businesses don't even need 24/7 staff. It's easy these days to have a proper redundancy and a "file server" crash shouldn't even be a noticeable hiccup.

If he wants something to brag about, he should be bragging not about his uptime, but that when one of the servers crashed, all the company lost out on was the server that died, and no one but IT knew it did.

Re:Turned it down (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129973)

Uh, wow. Seriously it's people like you who make PHB's look at IT as a cost center instead of a strategic asset. The only reason companies have an IT department is to make the other employees more efficient, if you let a server stay down until the morning when everyone else comes in then take a couple hours to half a day to fix it (typical repair times for anything non-trivial regardless of OS) then you've just cost the business .25-.5x the number of employees on that server in man-days. Sure you might be able to sell that as the reason to go with clustering or other HA solutions, but often the wallet just doesn't open that far. On the other hand if you get off your lazy butt and fix it when your monitoring systems tell you it's broke you've just cost the company a total of say 1 man day, your comp day. I seriously don't understand the "it's someone elses problem, if they really want it fixed they can call me" attitude.

Re:Turned it down (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128953)

Wow. I'm blow away by the size of your enormous e-peen. You must be so proud.

Re:Turned it down (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128867)

I figured that once I had that thing I'd never be able to get away from it, even on vacation. And that's exactly what happened to everyone else. People won't think twice about sending you an email for stupid little things at 10:00 PM, because they're working and figure everyone else should be as well. But making a phone call is very different, and most people won't do it unless it's something really important. People think it's no big deal because it's just a message. Bullshit.

See, I never used mine that way when I had it. My policy was if it was really important, you gave me a call. Emails were only checked maybe twice a day on the weekends and if it wasn't important (which it hardly ever was) it would wait until Monday.

Berries are one of those tools that are very good when used appropriately and hazardous to your well-being if used improperly. Most people use them improperly. I feel the exact same way about remote access tools. As an IT guy, I think they're great. I can log in, do the two second task I have to, and then I'm done. Regular employees don't like it because it means that the big pile of work on their desks feels like it's staring at them through the intertubes, demanding their attention. "I don't want to be able to work from home, I don't even want to know I'm able to do so!" some people have pleaded with me. I can understand.

Re:Turned it down (5, Insightful)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128967)

I'm the same way. I give notice to my colleagues of when I'm going on vacation, and I make it clear to them that for the duration of my vacation, I will NOT have my Blackberry with me. To make the point doubly clear, on my last day before vacation, I will point out that the Blackberry is in its cradle at the end of the day, and not on my person.

I am part of an on-call rotation. I will answer the phone if it rings while I'm not on-call, but I do not check my e-mail unless I hear it buzzing incessantly (I leave it on vibrate) for an inordinate amount of time, which means that a lot of messages are coming in and something is probably seriously broken and I'll be called anyway. If I am on-call, I check the subjects of messages but will only open them if they appear to be something about which I need to be concerned. Other than that, it goes back in the holster.

The Blackberry has its use. Its use is not to enslave me. Considering that the employer recently took actions in my favor to try to ensure that I will not leave in the near future, I suspect they know that pushing me on this (if they were so inclined) would not improve their position.

Re:Turned it down (5, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128879)

Anyone else find it ironic that someone who complains about people bugging him at all hours of the night for work, has his twitter info in his sig?

Re:Turned it down (1)

consonant (896763) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129861)

Uh..I'm not sure you're being sarcastic..but here goes anyway: GP was listing out the sockpuppet accounts used on Slashdot by a user called 'twitter'..

Re:Turned it down (1)

exley (221867) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129899)

Wrong twitter... The twitter he's referring to is a fairly well known Slashole who uses multiple accounts to spread his mostly anti-MS agenda.

Re:Turned it down (2, Insightful)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128887)

I'm surprised your employer wasn't the one telling you to leave. It sounds to me like a very simple case of an ornery old-timer not wanting to learn new technology - which is pretty absurd in this industry.

I accepted the BB when they were given out and I only configured one particular e-mail alias to send mail to it - the one used by our system monitoring software. So I am notified when critical infrastructure goes down and can even ssh from the BB to our systems if needed but I don't read my normal work e-mail on it.

Re:Turned it down (3, Insightful)

SkyDude (919251) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129005)

You must be new here - you're much too normal to be a real /.er.

One young whippersnapper made the comment that you must be an ornery old-time that didn't want to learn new technology. He may be joking, but he's probably a complete ageist, as you know your industry is full of them.

While I appreciate and enjoy the incredible technology that has made the BB possible, these kids need to know there was a good life before BBs and cell phones and 24/7/365 connectivity. I don't want any of it to go away, but all the tech has one common trait - a switch that allows the user to turn them off. And if they don't, take out the damn battery.

Life can be so quiet.......

Just mute the volume, that's what I do for my cell (2, Interesting)

SpecialAgentXXX (623692) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129045)

Hey man, my time off of work is my time. I mute my company issued cell phone's ringer. Then I call back when I'm awake which is when they are usually sleeping. :-) They have learned since to call someone else.

Re:Turned it down (1)

Josue.Boyd (1007859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129105)

I guess the models that your employer chose didn't come with the standard option of an on/off switch?
or even a mute button so that when you are off the clock, you wouldn't hear it?
I'm not a big blackberry fan, but I do see how they can be useful (when properly controlled)

Re:Turned it down (4, Insightful)

radish (98371) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129115)

Well you don't have to look at it.

I've carried a work BB for a few years now and I don't think it's been a negative thing at all. No one expects me to be checking email at the weekend so they still have to phone if it's urgent. If I'm on vacation the BB loses it's battery and goes in a drawer. However, if I want to check my morning meeting schedule before going to bed it takes 30 seconds (rather than having to fire up the VPN) and if I do get a call at some ungodly hour I can quickly check the mail trail to see what's been going on. I find it very convenient to be able to get to my work email quickly when I choose to, I don't feel under any pressure to do so more than I would do anyway.

One thing I'm very clear about is that I still carry a personal phone. That way, when I'm not on company time I can choose whether to take the BB or not. Clear separation of work and home life is important.

Re:Turned it down (1)

vk2 (753291) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129445)

Same here. My trusty 8700 and now 8820 and midpssh had saved my a$$ countless number of times during lunch/dinner breaks when on call.

Bunch of whiny babies (2, Insightful)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129247)

Grow some balls and be responsible for your self and your own work. It is just a tool - no one is standing over you with a gun to use it - and if they are you have a much bigger problem than a crappy PDA.

As an employer I would expect my employees to do their job. If a tool like a blackberry is useful to someone, more power to them, if they don't want it, I couldn't care less. Does not get you off the hook for doing your job though. Now, your job either includes off-hour support or it does not. No PDA will change your contract. If it includes it, stop whining and do your job or quit. If it does not, stop whining and just turn the fucking thing off or at least ignore it. That's what I do as an employee.

People are just whining because they have no guts to stand up for themselves and have no self control. The PDA is the least of their problems. If you can't take responsibility for yourself, I have no sympathy for you.

-Em

Re:Turned it down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129521)

Yep - Amen brother. My work (small shop) did the same exact thing. I was one of the first to try them, and the first (and so far only one) to give it back and refuse to take another.

And guess what - I'm not replying to emails all weekend, checking my email in front of my wife, or doing work when I should be relaxing.

Manage the device - don't let it manage you.

Re:Turned it down (1)

Rick Bentley (988595) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129917)

I don't want to hear little pings and murmurs from a PDA next to my bed because some VP couldn't find a file for tomorrow's presentation, or a fscking file server is down and Julie in accounting can't get to it. All that can wait until the morning.

uhm, then just turn off the e-mail alert function. People could still call you if there's an emergency, and if there's an emergency e-mail might be helpful (e.g. you can read the exact error messages that your monitoring SW is sending out rather than having "Chip from Sales" tell you that the website is down: http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com./ [www.thewebsiteisdown.com] If you're out at dinner, or similar, you might appreciate being able to not have to run home to get to a computer just because someone calls you with what they think is an emergency.

You can have my crackberry when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

Re:Turned it down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129997)

Oh please.

I have a BlackBerry. Does it rule my life? Not at all. From when I got home last night at 6pm until now (6:30am) I haven't got it out of my jacket pocket. If it was to ring, I'd hear it. But I don't have it setup to beep on email, therefore it's silent.

It's not like you're FORCED to read your email after hours, therefore I don't understand your argument.

Or are you saying you have no self control and would be drawn into reading it?

I sure as hell don't take it on vacation!

It's a great rant and everything, but it's uninformed. These things control you only if you let them.

no way (2, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128591)

After I put my 8 or 10 hours in I get home and shut off the cellphone/pager/pda or any other gadget connected to work, I need some me time to eat & take a shower and put my feet up & relax, there is nothing that can not wait until tomorrow.

If they fire me I will tell the boss, "I was looking for a job when I found this one".

Re:no way (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128655)

I agree with the me time, but

If they fire me I will tell the boss, "I was looking for a job when I found this one".

That's kinda like telling someone you know Martial Arts after they've just broken your nose.

Gotta agree with that. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128681)

From TFA:

The average professional spends 50 minutes a day sending emails after work, according to a survey conducted by Cohesive Knowledge Solutions, a company that trains companies and employees on email efficiency.

And since I spend NO time after work sending any work emails ... someone out there is spending an awful lot of time to make up for my slacking.

Goldman said the discussion, "opened up this conversation: Is work done on a BlackBerry out of the office work?"

Anything done on such a device after hours that benefit the employer is considered work, say experts.

I disagree with that. I'd say that "work" would be anything you'd be paid to do (and not fired for doing) in the office. If you do it after hours, it's still work.

I frequently do things after hours that benefit the company I work for. Such as reading.

Re:Gotta agree with that. (1, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128809)

Too many in the US have this "gimmie something" attitude, not the attitude of "how I can be a better worker", or "how I can enhance my value to the company".

Lots of lawsuits over this issue will change the work relationship between employee and employer -- to disadvantage the employee, I think. If you have the type of job you need to be on-call for, you obviously have much more value to your employer than a burger-flipper, and the worker should be looking to enhance that, not to sue for after-hours work.

And if you don't like how you're being treated, just quit already. If you are not happy, seek out an arrangement that'll make you happy.

Whining to "mommy government" will only make matters worse, not better.

Re:Gotta agree with that. (1)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129349)

i don't agree with your comment, but i also don't agree with it being modded flamebait, because it does address an important idea.

do you live to work, or
do you work to live.

i don't think its its a selfish attitude to demand a fair amount of 'me-time'.

I believe it is selfish for companies to demand that we sacrifice our 'me-time' to work unpaid overtime after we have put in a full day in the office. if they need people working my job 24/7, then that company can hire 3 people to work in shifts.
why is it my problem that the company is too cheep to hire the required manpower?

my life is divided into thirds, 8 hours of working, 8 hours of me time, and 8 hours of sleep.
half of my awake-time is spent working, the other half is spent doing what i want to do. if my employer expects me to work through my free time, then i expect to be pad for it.

FYI: when i go home tonight, i will do about an hour of work before i start my me time because i've been slacking off and reading slashdot while i should have been working.

Re:Gotta agree with that. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129749)

"Lots of lawsuits over this issue will change the work relationship between employee and employer -- to disadvantage the employee, I think. If you have the type of job you need to be on-call for, you obviously have much more value to your employer than a burger-flipper, and the worker should be looking to enhance that, not to sue for after-hours work."

Make it easy on all...be upfront when you sign the contract...demand to be paid for every hour you work. Then, there is no need to sue.

Re:Gotta agree with that. (4, Interesting)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129077)

And since I spend NO time after work sending any work emails ... someone out there is spending an awful lot of time to make up for my slacking.

Yeah, I know that person. I work for them...

Maybe there's a generational gap here, but as a 20-something just entering the working world, I've found it striking how those 20-30 years older than myself have come to see email as the Infallible Silver Bullet of instant office communication. Email isn't always reliable, or instant, or even secure, yet it's increasingly treated that way.

For example, I receive one-liner emails from someone sitting at a computer in an office less than 30 feet from mine. Just walk over and ask your question, you know where I am. Well, okay, so I'm not always at the computer- in which case I'll get a followup email (or two) within 10 minutes asking why I haven't replied to the first message. We have numerous people who use email as an instant message service, shooting single sentence messages back and forth all day long. Our workstations even come with an IM client installed, and I've tried to instruct people to use it, but nobody does. They'd rather make a show out of spending at least an hour or two every day "doing email", as it's called around the office.

I'm convinced that the use of Blackberries will only make the problem worse. Email is quickly becomming the text messaging of the workplace, something it was never designed nor intended for. God help me if the boss ever gets a Blackberry, and figures out how to use it...

Re:no way (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129029)

there is nothing that can not wait until tomorrow.

This applies to your job, and if you enforce it, then I applaud you. Some of us aren't so lucky and have to maintain 24/7 shops. However, as I mention above, it's still possible to craft personal rules within policy that ensure that my time actually is my time, and not stolen by the employer.

AT&T + NSA can help! (0, Offtopic)

chrisjbuck (950790) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128593)

Surely the NSA could verify that it was all non-work related "tapping"? And isn't "tapping" slang for "laying some pipe" which is slang for "rooting" which is slang for...

Obviously given to the wrong employees (5, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128637)

Blackberries are imho meant for those people who for whatever reason can't stop working. Business owners, sales people working on commission only, that idea. And of course that are exactly the people for whom working hours don't count. I'm one of them, even though I don't have nor want a blackberry. If people need to reach me so urgently they can use the phone.

This also makes me wonder, what is a blackberry doing in the hands of employees with fixed working hours? Why are they given one by the company in the first place? This are generally the lower ranked people (now I don't know US labour laws very much) - they have fixed working hours obviously, and are supposed to do (and finish) their work within those hours. I can't think of any reason why they would possibly need one such devices. They are at work, then work, and then will have a computer at hand. If it is the kind of employee that is supposed to run around all the time, e-mail won't be of much interest for them either.

No matter what I think this is mostly a story about the inappropriate use of a technology. The enormous urge of being "ahead of the pack" when it comes to adapting new tech. It is high tech, it is new, "everybody" uses it, etc. That kind of thinking. It sounds like a disconnect between the ideas of the top management and the actual tasks of the workers.

Add to that the idea that all employees want to be important, and having a blackberry these days is for sure equivalent to being important (until recently it were only the high-fliers that would have a need for it and could afford one), so everybody will happily accept a blackberry without thinking about whether they really need one. And then those lower ranked employees also get addicted, forget that they have working hours, start working overtime, and poof, lawsuit!

I truly hope the employees lose in this case, as I consider it unasked for overtime. Completely voluntary overtime. Unless the employers gave the blackberry with the message "now you are reachable at all times", in which case the employer deserves to lose - if only for sheer stupidity.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

Dissman (997434) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128687)

Non-exempt people cannot legally work voluntary overtime (at least those in the federal service)... even if they want to.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129015)

My understanding is (and this may be limited to my sub-segment) you *can* work over-time,
but the rules surrounding it are so convoluted (you can't be asked and must volunteer;
you can't be compensated for it, nor must there be any implied statements regarding future
compensation) that in practice it amounts to it being forbidden.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

Dissman (997434) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129405)

In my current position, if I'm caught working unpaid voluntary overtime, I will be told to leave. If I am caught working overtime again, I will be fired. That is what I was told by both my superior and my professional association... and I know people who've been terminated for being busted doing VOT. So it's a YMMV. Although, I can work overtime and get paid for it. So, it probably varies by department and implementation... I don't even think your method solves the blackberry problem. When they ask you to do something in the middle of the night, you didn't volunteer.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (0, Offtopic)

thrashee (1066650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128691)

Bump the parent up! I totally agree.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

thrashee (1066650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128933)

Saying that I agree with a poster is off-topic now?

Whoever is moderating tonight: your time will come.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128723)

I can't think of any reason why they would possibly need one such devices. They are at work, then work, and then will have a computer at hand. If it is the kind of employee that is supposed to run around all the time, e-mail won't be of much interest for them either.

Blackberries are extremely useful for employees who are regularly not at their desk, regardless of their working hours. That can range from the CEO, real estate agents, sales reps, unionized repair technicians, accountants or physicians.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

cylcyl (144755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128881)

I truly hope the employees lose in this case, as I consider it unasked for overtime. Completely voluntary overtime.

But isn't your boss sending you a message at 10PM and giving you a blackberry so that he knows you can receive it an implicit request to work overtime?

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128983)

I think it depends on the content of the message rather than the means of sending it. If the message says "Get X done by the morning", or "Reply immediately" then it is, whether it is sent by blackberry or phone or whatever. But there are many messages a boss might send after hours (perhaps just because he is working late, and that includes sending emails) that don't require any action until the following day.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

MrCreosote (34188) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129121)

"But there are many messages a boss might send after hours (perhaps just because he is working late, and that includes sending emails) that don't require any action until the following day.

In which case I will action it when I read the email after I get to work the next morning.

Re:Obviously given to the wrong employees (1)

sub67 (979309) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129529)

I think it depends on the content of the message rather than the means of sending it.

I have to disagree. The only way to determine the content of the message is to acknowledge it through reading. The typically vague use of subject lines in the corporate workplace don't help this any. If you're compelled to check that mail for any reason other than personal dedication, I think it should be technically be billable. A few posts up made a good point in that hourly workers are paid to work within certain hours and that really should be where it stops. If the worker is felt necessary beyond their normal hours, on-call arrangements need to be established to compensate the employee for these situations.

Uhm... (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128643)

Exactly how many employees who are required to carry a blackberry and perform work on it are also "non-exempt"?

Re:Uhm... (1)

kellenc (1310809) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128689)

We have a contract worker in our network communications department who is hourly; he is required to have his Treo with him, and occasionally does work during off-hours (I know because I've received e-mails from him at odd times).

Re:Uhm... (1)

T3Tech (1306739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128931)

Contractor != hourly (non-exempt) employee. The key word being contract which should determine whether or not there is such a thing as an overtime rate; and if so, at what point that is reached since it could be significantly different from 40 hours.

Let's not forget corporate laptops... (5, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128699)

They've been issued for far longer than Blackberries and haven't spurned lawsuits so far.

Basically, it's not a question of the technology: if you have hourly employees working unreported time, you're asking for trouble. The labor laws are fairly clear in this matter. Whether it's on a Blackberry, laptop, or otherwise is beside the point.

But let's not forget that employers can simply reclassify their hourly employees as salaried and get as much unpaid overtime as they want. And that's perfectly legal, Blackberry or not. This question is more a matter of your employer's semantic classification of your job than whether or not you get paid for your overtime.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128733)

I'd like to see less government involvement in the workplace, and just let the employee and employer agree on work conditions and rules and expectations.

Don't like the policies? Go get another job. It's that easy, really.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (2, Insightful)

mrroot (543673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128815)

I'd like to see less government involvement in the workplace, and just let the employee and employer agree on work conditions and rules and expectations. Don't like the policies? Go get another job. It's that easy, really.

It's not really that simple. It might work in the case of a few bad companies, but what if all companies adopt the same work conditions? That is the thing about pure capitalism, that companies can become too greedy at the expense of human beings, so there needs to be a balance of regulations that protect the factors that are not purely financial (human health, environmental, safety, non-discrimination, etc). This happened a lot in the industrial revolution before labor laws and still happens in other parts of the world, which imported goods are so cheap.

(I am not an economist nor am I a historian, so someone who is either can probably set me straight on the details)

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (2, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128825)

I'd like to see less government involvement in the workplace, and just let the employee and employer agree on work conditions and rules and expectations.

Don't like the policies? Go get another job. It's that easy, really.

I'd like to see one of those stony heart libertarians get really fucked-up in the arse to the hilt by one of those wall-to-wall lawyered mega croporations and lose everything down to the last fermion of his soul.

Then we'll see if he's still against "government involvement" in life...

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128833)

I agree with you, except where it applies to worker safety. People will work quite hard for money, and even put their life in danger, if it's the only job they can find. Sure you could say they are stupid for doing it, but then you've probably never been in a situation where the choice was food or descend into an unsafe mine shaft. Set up whatever crazy work hours and pay rate you want. But as soon as the actual health and well being of the employee comes into concern, the government should have some say as to what's going on. From a legal point of view, you could be quite negligent for paying somebody for risking their own life.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129237)

Set up whatever crazy work hours and pay rate you want. But as soon as the actual health and well being of the employee comes into concern, the government should have some say as to what's going on.

That's great. You just need to remember that overwork is bad for your health and draw the logical conclusion.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

Idefix97 (725474) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128821)

Except that in California you need to make a certain minimum amount in order to be eligible to be classified as exempt. For 2008 it's $36 an hour (or the equivalent on a year basis), but in 2007 it was over $49 an hour. Too bad my previous company is almost bankrupt otherwise I should sue them for unpaid overtime!

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129469)

I'm nowhere near an HR drone, but that $36/hr is a variable figure depending on the role/purpose of the position, right? For example, a computer professional would have a different eligibility rate than someone in outside sales. Or at least that's my understanding (and I could be way off base)...

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

Idefix97 (725474) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129575)

It's for all computer professionals, I should have made that clear.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129799)

"It's for all computer professionals, I should have made that clear."

Wow...that is CA? That sucks. I've worked as a W2 employee for companies...usually with them putting me onto govt contract jobs, and was hourly, I got straight time OT..and was WELL over $36/hr. I was non-exempt....I'd never work it any other way either.

Can you not even negotiate this for a job in CA?

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

Idefix97 (725474) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129983)

I don't think that the law says you have to be exempt, just that if you are exempt, you must make at least $36/hr.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (3, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128843)

Actually you can't arbitrarily classify someone exempt. There are fairly strict (were much stricter before Bush) guidlines about who is, and who is not exempt. Basically your job had to either be managerial or tightly classified as a purely creative job with the ability to set your own schedule in order to be classified as exempt.

Re:Let's not forget corporate laptops... (1)

spasm (79260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129159)

University of California policy is if one of your non-exempt employees replies to emails you sent them out of work hours you're supposed to reprimand them, for exactly this issue - if someone sues the university for unpaid overtime and can show a string of timestamps on emails to their supervisor of record outside normal work hours, this demonstrates a) they were doing uncompensated overtime, and, more importantly, b) their supervisor knew about it and did not stop it, which counts as approval in the eyes of courts.

I assume this counts for all employees in California at least. So if you're a non-exempt employee in California and have had it with creeping expectations about when and how you work, dig through the last two years of your outbox & give the CA dept. of industrial relations a call: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageCLaim.htm [ca.gov]

If you're not sure if you're 'non-exempt', the DIR is the body responsible for deciding if your occupation is exempt or no exempt (and their webpage has a handy link on the front page about software workers..) http://www.dir.ca.gov/IWC/IWC.html [ca.gov]

Enjoy : )

Have you tried ... (4, Insightful)

mrroot (543673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128721)

... setting personal boundaries and expectations with your employer and co-workers? Just because you have a Blackberry does not make you an indentured servant.

On a side note, I had a previous employer offer me a Blackberry as an enticement to stay when I gave my notice to leave. Needless to say my decision remained the same.

I own a Blackberry (my own, I'm self employed and also an ISV of a Blackberry app) and the biggest complaint I have about them is many companies hand them out as status symbols and not to the people who could really make good use of them.

Re:Have you tried ... (4, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128903)

I own a Blackberry (my own, I'm self employed and also an ISV of a Blackberry app) and the biggest complaint I have about them is many companies hand them out as status symbols and not to the people who could really make good use of them.

My biggest complaint is that people keep fiddling with them in meetings. When people call me over for help on something and then take a five minute personal call, I leave. "Where did you go?" Back somewhere productive. Bad enough when we're talking about going to someone's desk, it's absolutely infuriating when there's a big meeting and everyone is on the berries. New rule: your berry gets turned off and goes in the basket. Your people know the room you're in; if something important happens, you will be paged.

Personally, I think it's incredibly rude to let a phone call interrupt a conversation. It's one thing if it's someone's boss calling, nothing can be done about that, same as if he pokes his head in the door. But anything less than that, ask if it's important, if not, call them back! Big pet peeve.

Games (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129601)

My biggest complaint is that people keep fiddling with them in meetings.

If meetings where more interesting and actually valuable, people would not be so inclined to >i>playing solitaire during them.

Etiquette guide (2, Informative)

dustpuppy (5260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129837)

I remember reading an etiquette guide where the rule of thumb was 'proximity'.

So if you are talking to someone face to face and you get a phone call/pager/email/IM, then you ignore those and focus on the face to face conversation because that person is closer.

Or if you are on phone call, and you get a pager/email/IM, then the caller is 'closer' to you (since you are engaged in a real-time voice conversation) and you would ignore the others including the IM (which is real-time, but less 'close' since it's not voice).

Basically it comes down to common sense and respect for the other person. Ever since I read that, I've been following that rule of thumb to the point where people I'm having conversations with are shocked when I let a phone call go to voicemail rather than interrupt my chat with them.

Mind you, the shocked look is often replaced with one of admiration that I consider them important/interesting enough that I am giving them my undivided attention. To me, that's proof that the rule of thumb is worth following.

Applies to most mangers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128747)

b*sturds

It's their choice (2, Interesting)

IkeTo (27776) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128795)

I've got a friend who have been given one. In my opinion it's both good and bad. The good side is that if you must send an E-mail, you can, and you don't have to stop your leisure and go home or go to workplace. The bad side is that more people expect you to reply quickly. But if you don't start replying quickly, few get such expectation. So my friend end up not attending to that new gadget when peaceful moments are more desired (which is most of the time).

At the end of the day, it's just a tool. They give it to you, it's their right. You might watch for message in it every second you're not sleeping, or you might just turn it off unless somebody makes you a phone call and you decide it is urgent enough, it's your choice. They can fire you, but they can always do so anyway.

Doh! (1)

jimpop (27817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128841)

Just turn it off at 5pm, it will wake up automatically in the AM if you set the time correctly.

Re:Doh! (1)

jimpop (27817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128849)

One more thing...

Blackberry's are proof that "Power to the People" is bad. Look at all the Blackberry users who can't manage their personal time because they have a powerful device on their hip.

Re:Doh! (2, Interesting)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128979)

While I agree with you in some respects -- in fact, a lot of folks are saying the current economic downturn is WORSE than normal because people are being expected to keep up with so much more in terms of insurance and other safety nets compared to previous recessions -- just because a subsection can't handle the control doesn't mean everyone should give it up.

I don't use a blackberry (because I'm still, admittedly, on my parents' plan and nobody involved wants to pay the extra per-line-per-month data charges), but my boyfriend does and he was connected to this thing right about when his carrier cut him out from under him. He's found ways to cope with a less feature-laden device, but still rough. Then again, when you're effectively the last line of defense in keeping a 24/7 radio station on the air, it's easy to see how he needs it.

In terms of other devices, though, I've been juggling at any given time:

- my laptop (obviously)
- a Nintendo DS
- a "smart" pedometer (technically a DS peripheral, but whatever)
- a Swatch smartwatch (which means it gets a little radio signal with things like important news bulletins, weather, and some vague stock reports. I could get MSN on it but I don't feel like paying for it)
- And my current "dumb" phone, which does calls, texting, and is my alarm clock.

Only one of these (the laptop) has any pertinent importance, and yet I notice the ones on my person the most (the pedometer and the watch) get my attention more often. There's something about a device that's attached to your body that makes you more attentive to it.

Combine this with the immediacy we already attach to phones, and a Blackberry becomes a risky combination. It's easy to see how such a thing can take over your life.

Sure (3, Interesting)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128877)

You have to pay for people to work. What a novel concept.

Re:Sure (0, Flamebait)

neochubbz (937091) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129033)

You have to pay for people to work. What a novel concept.

Sure! We're not all Chinese or small African children.

Are you out of your mind?? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129043)

Dude you can't say that around here! People will think you're talking about software and therefore EEEEEEEVIIIIILLLLL! :(

Re:Sure (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129539)

I'm going to come clean your car. I'm going to charge you $10,000. You didn't ask me to do it, but I decided to anyway - now pay me.

I agree! (4, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#24128915)

I actually tell my employees specifically that - if they're not on call - they should not answer blackberries for work use when off.

Now, I do think it provides some leeway - I have some employees who I allow somewhat flexible hours and for that they trade some amount of availiblity.

Others, I just like to irritate by sending emails a 4:30AM. :P

Oh, wait, my master is buzzing...

Standby pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128955)

Back when I had to be on call, I got a pager and was paid an on-call premium. If someone called the pager, I automatically got for hours overtime if I had to respond (plus any extra time past that).

Not being able to draw a line between work time and personal time probably has an adverse health consequence. (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Marmot [wikipedia.org] ) By making work intrusions on personal time an employer expense, the employer is deterred from making frivolous demands.

snorif (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24128973)

GOledn raisins are a sweet and nutritiuos snake fulle of energy for your bysy lifestyle.a

How hard is it to ignore them? (2, Insightful)

jroysdon (201893) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129007)

It's really not that hard to ignore them. I've had one for about a year (the 8830). I tune out the blinking red light when I'm not working, or if it is annoying me I turn the phone upside down so I cannot see it.

I find it very useful when I'm on site and I can keep up a bit more, whereas otherwise I'd be a day or two behind on emails.

Re:How hard is it to ignore them? (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129351)

Not hard when you put them in the freezer. Which is where my brother allways put his when he got home.

Non-exempt is a great thing. (3, Interesting)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129011)

I'm currently a IT professional that is actually paid overtime for > 40 hours of work per week. Guess what - I don't have a blackberry.

If I want to earn more money, the next pay grade is exempt and (shocking) includes a blackberry.

It's like looking at crackpipe and trying to talk yourself into it. :\

Re:Non-exempt is a great thing. (1)

Port Eastwood (1323047) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129347)

Being a Canadian, I realize labor laws differ a wee bit, but in any case I am part of a unionized engineering group working for a major energy producer. My company has already chosen to do as the article recommends, and blackberries are limited to salaried management staff and those in positions of particular importance. I don't have one, and am perfectly happy! My issue arises, as mentioned before, with those with the lack of decency to ignore the damned thing when having a discussion. My own boss is notorious for reading his blackberry WHILE "talking" with his subordinates. You can't tell me that he is actually listening to me while he reads the mundane crap (for the most part) being fired at his inbox every 30 seconds!

I'm hourly and I'm on call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129025)

Here's the rule:

If the on-call phone rings, answer it. Take care of the problem. We'll pay you. Overtime if necessary.

If the request comes in over your other phone or email, it can wait until normal business hours.

Everyone knows insert my job title here doesn't work after-hours unless it's an emergency and everyone who needs to know knows how to make the on-call phone ring.

It is easy really. (1)

Valar (167606) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129149)

Don't use it after business hours. Make it clear that if there is an emergency (a real emergency, as in money lost by the second kind of emergency)you should be called.

Use the phone. Don't take calls. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129223)

Sometimes the reason you are given a phone is because your boss wants to work during *his* vacation by getting information from you (during your regular working hours) and sometimes even to keep you informed. It all depends on your boss really. There is no reason to use a stupid phone these days while you have the smartphones. Smartphones are absolutely one of the best things to have, especially when the company pays for it. My boss never ever calls me during non-working hours except to wish holiday greetings. I use the company phone completely to my convenience and to answer only the emergency calls. I consider it a perk as I am supposed to be reachable through emergency calls through home phone any way.

Why use a blackberry when you can txt? (2, Interesting)

Etcetera (14711) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129285)

If something is down, you've got 140 characters or so to tell me about it. If it takes more than that, it's either not serious enough to make me care about, or it's serious enough for you to call me about.

Either way I'm fine with my LG 10000 Voyager, and personal laptop to remote in when travelling if needed beyond that.

They day I have a blackberry is they day I've sold my soul (and/or am making more ... heh).

Blackberry != "the problem" (4, Insightful)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129403)

The problem is not the device - there's a lot of chatter in this thread about the pros and cons of such portable devices, but the core issue is employers who have no regard for employees' personal time and who routinely break wage and hour laws.

Improper handling of "exempt" employee status is probably the most frequently screwed up HR liability in the corporate world because half of managers "heard somewhere" at one point that if you're on salary you're exempt. Wrong. The same people fabricated "flex time" which has no basis in law in the state of California (maybe in other places).

The level of ignorance in upper management with regard to employees rights is mind-numbing.

Re:Blackberry != "the problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129473)

Whats worse is that IT staff is idea that IT staff is considered exempt in the first place. FSLA law regarding exempt and non exempt was written to prevent management from abusing the staff, hence why management does not get paid overtime. They also included some bits about "professionals" because professionals (lawyers, doctors) are supposed to make gobs of money that is supposed to balance out the no overtime thing. So your average mid level IT dude gets fucked on both ends via explicit exeptions for computer folks - we get no protection from management AND many of us get paid squat.

As an Exchange consultant... (3, Informative)

SirKron (112214) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129537)

I have been telling my clients this for years. Wisconsin law clearly says that if a manager knowingly allows an hourly employee to do work at home then they must be compensated for their time. So, all my designs include the ability to and documentation on how to disable mobile access, remote email access, etc. for hourly and other non-exempt employees. If the employee saves all their email they can export all the email sent by them after hours, compile the data, and then prove a pattern of working in the evenings. If they were a 30 - hour employee they can sue for the remaining hours and benefits. This is a lot of risk for employers.

I'm surprised (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129579)

that companies would actually give, let alone expect non-exempt employees to be in contact after hours. There are very few nob-exempt positions at the company I work for and they're relatively simple tasks. If you're actually someone who needs to be in contact with others on a regular basis, like myself, who gets calls at 10pm or 2am for "emergencies" then you're an exempt aka salaried position, which also means I get to leave when I want when it's dead...of course I have worked 14 days straight near deadlines.

But ya, if I was hourly and you called me at 10pm or 2am I'd put in for overtime, bill you or expect some type of compensation - if not I can see why this would be grounds for a big shit storm.

Its not often I rule in favor of the corporations (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129941)

Its not often I rule in favor of the corporations, but this is one of them.

If you're supposed to work, work.
If you're supposed to be off duty, don't work.

I'm one to speak, I regularly stay overtime to get things done, but I'm aware that its my choice, my responsibility, and not any form of corporate command whatsoever;

I do it to get things done. Not blackmail my company!!!

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