Overtime pay for using a company issued BlackBerry?

By IsaacKendall on 4 Aug 2010 10:25 am EDT
BlackBerry at the pool    

The Chicago Sun Times has an article about a police sergeant who's seeking overtime pay for his after-hours work done on his BlackBerry while at home. For many of us who have work devices this is nothing new. I've been using a BlackBerry for work since 1998 and have spent many hours over the years responding to work related stuff from home or while out the the family.

It's not something that I've ever considered a terrible burden. My guess is that because I've found so many uses for my BlackBerry other than just work email. It's my Twitter connection, podcast player, personal calendar, password keeper and many more functions. These apps make the device more of a Swiss-Army knife that you can't imagine leaving home with. I'm also in commission corporate sales so I guess each after hours email helps me make more money.

Strangely I have found is that having a BlackBerry helps give me more personal time if you can believe it. Pre-BlackBerry I'd be at the park and a client would actually phone me on my cell phone and even though it would be just a quick question after all the usual chit-chat the quick question could be a 5 minute phone call. Now with a BlackBerry the quick question can be answered with a 6 word email and be done with it in 15 seconds.

Now with all that said, I could just be a work-a-holic and don't know if I could put down regardless. In fact I'm writing this article from my campsite while supposedly on vacation with my family and a few other families from my church, is that not irony? As there are steps you can take to reduce the annoyance level of work related email by controlling the email flow. Additionally there a feature on a BlackBerry that many people may not be aware of, the power button. What do you think? Cast your vote in our poll and leave a comment with your thoughts!

    Reader comments

    Overtime pay for using a company issued BlackBerry?


    I don't think so. I am a Senior Consultant and spend hours of a day talking to clients. I can work from home and even client site and not worry about being connected to my Work emails. It hardly takes me 30 seconds to fire an email and get work done. After all, the money I raise for the company comes back to me as a bonus. Why should I even bother asking for those 30 seconds?

    I agree. Besides, its not like his employer told him to do the work at home on his Blackberry. I know times are hard right now but damn, people will sue for ANYTHING!

    I feel the same way. My BB gives me a thousand times more flexibility than not having one.

    I can run errands, leave early, come in late, take a longer lunch etc. knowing that I can keep an eye on what's going on back at the office.

    And by approaching it this way there's not that "craziness" when I get back to the office about taking care of things while I was gone.

    Only word that needs to be said. I get no bonus from all the extra calls and emails to organize, dispatch and schedule and make decisions for people at work when I am away. So therefore I charge them for all my work time on the BlackBerry while I am not on work clocked time.

    Every Blackberry user has the option not to respond to an email if it is after regular business working hours. If someone shoots off an email after regular business hours that is done so on the employees discretion.

    If an employee is concerned about receiving compensation for those after hours emails, then wait until the next morning to send the email when it is during regular business hours.

    its a police sergeant that is involved in the lawsuit. So lets say the email is about a murder case he doesnt exactly have the luxury to wait till the next day to answer the email when its something like that. SO i say employees should get paid for work done from an email when youre off the clock.

    i think from a emergency services sector its a little different of course, but you shouldnt expect it, at least not without prior approval/agreement with your bosses.

    plus how do you `prove` your overtime? could get very he said she said

    Yep. Too many people are saying "well *I* don't think so because *I*....". The lawsuit is very specific for the cop who is off-duty but is constantly having to check in.

    Read the original article first people.

    The poll is not specific to the industry. It asked the question should you get overtime for using a company issued Blackberry.

    Obviously there are going to be exceptions (ie. Police services and such). But in general, for 9 to 5 office employees using their Blackberries after hours...No!!!

    Like someone mentioned...unless given previous approval from your boss.

    I'm salary, and as my company's BES admin, it's just a part of my job. On the plus side, my cellular charges are covered by the company, so I'm none to worried about getting paid extra for time spent working emails after hours. I do update my "time sheet" accordingly for hours worked.

    Should companies be allowed to dock pay for employees wasting time using twitter, fantasy leagues, facebook? Works both ways. It all comes out in the wash.

    im sorry its a total choice thing, if im off work and i get a work related email, i leave it till im in work. simple as that.

    there is of course the need for some to be able to be `on call` moreso than overtime, but i think choosing to do something like that doesnt entitle you to claim it unless you have a prior agreement with your bosses.

    i just love the fact the dude left that section before complaining!!

    What we are really talking about here is should one be compensated for work done with the blackberry outside of normal work hours. Those that are saying no for overtime are being compensated in other ways ie. salary, bonuses. For many people overtime is the only way they would be compensated. Yes, you do have the choice to wait until the next normal work day. However if the company expects you to respond promptly then yes if your not compensated in some other way I’d expect overtime pay.

    It's not like he has a standard 9 to 5 job, being a cop. I'm not sure of the policy for Chicago Police, but I do know that in many private sector jobs any OT must be pre-approved if you're not on salary.

    For example, I have a friend who has an hourly wage and is paid OT when approved by his supervisor. However, his Supervisor (being management) doesn't receive OT, even though there are times they work the same hours. Price you pay for management.

    So, my guess is that if he was an hourly pay scale and didn't have the OT approved, then he can't claim it now. Just a guess.

    Being able to respond to work related e-mails after hours helps e be more hands on and I can get more work done. If you on standby then U getting payed for it already!!! To respond to the mail is your own choice at the end of the day. So if it can wait until the next day the leave at return the mail when you get to the office.

    Anyone in Law Enforcement can tell you that even when they are not 'on the clock' they are working. Its one of the few jobs in which one is still required to conduct themselves and live the life of an individual sworn to protect the public.

    What I'm getting at is that if the situation is urgent, then cellular or home phone is still the primary method of communication. Law Enforcement officers come in contact with dozens of people during the day and send plenty of e-mails.

    I am connected to my job through my blackberry as well, but it is my choice whether or not I want to answer emails off the clock. Getting paid overtime to send an e-mail on a blackberry is unjustifiable. If he wants compensation so much how about a flat rate of $3 per e-mail sent after hours? He'll learn to prioritize and think twice about sending emails.

    My blackberry isn't work issued, but if I get called for any reason on the weekend or a day off, I automatically get four hours pay, even if the call was only 30 seconds long. Nobody likes to worry about work related crap on their day off. People should definitely get OT for any work-related activity.

    Yet I use the device for lots of work related e-mail or even the occasional phone call outside office hours. The end result is better service to clients and overall better life for me. With e-mail I can work at my own pace and not be tied to the phone. And yes, the power button does work very well in my life.

    As to the poll question I cannot find a black and white answer. A lot depends on the circumstance. I am a commission based employee. My phone use generates income from clients. For salaried employees the situation may be different unless they have some sort of bonus involved. Hourly employees deserve to be paid IMHO.

    Hey, if you choose to be a cop and to protect and serve, always being on call is part of the job. Either deal with it or quit.

    For those of us that have salary payed jobs, just don't respond to emails after business hours.

    If you aren't expected to do something or respond out of normal hours then you shouldn't expect overtime for doing so whether it is on a blackberry or not.

    Damn right if the company(et all) initiates a phone call or email to my phone after my normal working hours they should be expected to compensate me for my time involved. If they won't, Please don't call me. As a service tech way back before cell phones If I had to answer the phone for the company I was compensated two hours pay. Generally all the techs took turns doing this and were paid an availability to compensate for having to stay near the phone. The company I am currently employed with says that I absolutely will not work off the clock. So anything that happens after normal working hours I will be compensated for.


    I used to work with a company that gave me a blackberry and expected me to respond 24 / 7 – I also was able to charge for that time. I think if the company expects you to respond then it’s only fair.

    If they don’t force you to use your blackberry until you get back to work then that’s your choice (but what is the point in having a work issued blackberry if you’re not going to respond to the emails until you get back to the office)

    If it's a requirement of your job, yes. If you are a highly paid professional, especially in a leadership role, yes. If you are just a CrackBerry addict, then no.

    If companies are not willing to pay overtime because it is not expected of the employee(s), and they are a responsible organization, then they could adopt a strategy similar to the Canadian Government and could disable email (and other features) outside of business hours (i.e., 7pm-7am)

    These Civil Servants waste more time on the job than you could fathom. No, he shouldn't get the extra pay. He should be docked for the tax payer money he's wasted over the years or fired.

    Okay, unless the police force is in the habbit of providing every officer a blackberry, then this dude was in a position of responsibility that required him having access to e-mail where ever, when ever. No He should not be compensated more so just becuase he was off duty, his position is compensating him, via his salary. Other wise he would not have the BBerry. That being said, if everyone on the force recieves a BBerry, then it's an expectation of the job, that they have access to e-mail 24/7, and with that expectation is the reasonable requirement by the employer for relatively quick response time. Quit trying to shirk responsibility, Either deal with it, or find a job with less responsibility.

    like other people say, i believe that it depends on the circumstances of the job and what your doing exactly, and why your doing work stuff on your bb off the clock

    itself and for BIS service, and I use it for company emails during my off hours all the time. Don't have a problem with it, and of course, my boss doesn't either. :)

    I say no as the knee-jerk response. But in my situation I know that I am able to use my BB for personal use also as long as I maintain the required usage for work. We are not told this but it goes without saying here and we (I work in IT) don't restrict the phones in any way with an IT policy.

    If it where different such as there was no personal use at all allowed I wouldn't even bring the device home with me unless there was some sort of compensation.

    Conceptually, I understand that many people do lots of work stuff after hours on their BB. I think going forward, it is something to be considered when it comes to compensation decisions.

    That being said, I think every person who is suing for OT pay for BB usage should hire someone who is out of work and desperately looking for a job. They can monitor your BB mail for you while you sleep and give you a summary in the morning.

    I have a company-issued BlackBerry. I pay $5 a month to split a texting package. I'm allowed to use it for personal calls, so it's essentially a free phone with just the "cost" of checking my email.

    But the most important part of this is that I have boundaries. I disabled the BlackBerry's notifications of new emails, so it doesn't bother me all the time. I only check the email once or twice in the evening. Anything particularly urgent will simply wait until the next day.

    When I go on vacation, I tell my bosses that I will not answer their calls. I have boundaries in place.

    When I get married later this year, I'm thinking of turning in my company phone and buying a personal flip phone, and then telling the company that they may no longer call me off-hours.

    Don't let the word Blackberry in there confuse you like it has. The artical only says he was spending hours on the phone dealing with search warrant issues and calls from supervisors about cases.. Doesn't mention one thing about email or anything else, so he could just as well of had an old nokia phone.. The city probably issued him the Blackberry with a pretty tight IT policy on it so they wouldn't get any surprises when the bill came.. So now he needs some money and lawyers are always willing to help someone get the money they deserve " at least that's what Edgar keeps saying" so they make sure they make a big issue of him having a city issued Blackberry.. Figuring people will just assume he was doing the email thing and whatever else..
    Just my thought on it.. Have fun now..

    But the answer seems straightforward. This is something that should be discussed and agreed upon in an employee/employer contract (especially hourly employees).

    The particulars in this case warrants the officer being compensated for his time. Public servants put in a lot of off duty time simply because of the profession they chose. The public expects and demands this of them. Most of them don't do their part with no complaint. When they are contacted by their superiors for job related information they should be paid. Time off should be respected as just that time off. That being said do you think if the officer who wrote me a ticket the other day reads this he might change it to a warning.

    As others have said, this should depend on the situation, and be based off of agreements with your employer.

    I have a work issued BlackBerry. I have answered emails at home, but I'm not required to do so. It sits on my kitchen counter until bedtime, then it comes to bed with me as I use it as an alarm. If I happen to see it flashing, sometimes I'll check it.

    My boss knows that I'm not required to montitor it after hours. If there's something urgent on the weekend, they will call me on the BlackBerry. If I can't go in, I'm not compensated for the call. If I can, I'm on the clock right then.

    Finally, remember that sometimes BlackBerries are issued not for 24/7 connection, but rather for being connected when you are on the clock.

    Darn right you should get overtime pay... but only if your company is so cheap that they still have you sporting that old 8703e like the picture shows.....

    My quesiton is this - if people want to be paid overtime for the work done on their BlackBerry while "away" from work, should their pay also be docked for all the personal stuff that is done at work?

    Turn the damn thing off from time to time. I turn my phone off (not vibrate or silent or any other stupidity) OFF when I am with friends, family or simply don't want to be bothered. Simple concept but I guess the "can't live without it" "always in my hand" "more important than anything else" crowd will miss that point, completely.