Device Management and the New Overtime Rule

Experts say HR should prepare to track the time employees spend using smartphones for work

By Aliah D. Wright May 23, 2016
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ORLANDO, Fla.—Several studies reveal that employees who use smartphones work longer hours. Little wonder.

Employees can access work after regular hours from home or on the weekends via e-mail, texting and a plethora of apps such as WhatsApp, Slack, Asana or Basecamp. They do work through instant messaging via LinkedIn and Facebook’s Messenger, too.

Now that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new overtime rule has been issued, will companies have to create or change their device management policies to accommodate the new law?

FLSA Overtime Rule Compliance

For more overtime compliance news, tips and tools, check out the SHRM resources provided below:

· FLSA Overtime Rule Resources Guide
· Compliance Checklist · Infographic
Yes, experts say. They may need to use software to help them track hours, too. And organizations should be prepared for lawsuits from employees who aren’t being compensated for all their time worked. That’s because as a result of the new rule, millions of previously exempt employees will be eligible for overtime when the law goes into effect later this year.

HR professionals like Wendy Dailey are concerned about what this change will mean for people who use their devices for work.

“I’m a little disappointed that the rules are not becoming more flexible for hourly employees, which is where my concerns regarding mobile devices are,” said Dailey, a facilities and services employment coordinator at South Dakota State University, in an interview with SHRM Online. “We utilize mobile devices for the majority of our hourly staff, to communicate work assignments [and] track time and communication with supervisors,” she said. “We have allowed staff to take these devices home and utilize them for some nonwork-related apps.

“For some of our staff, this has caused some blurred lines between when their workday begins and ends,” she added.

Have Smartphone, Will Work

Employees who use smartphones wind up working about 13.5 hours every day and as many as 72 hours each week—which includes weekends, according to a 2015 study from the executive education firm Center for Creative Leadership. The study also revealed that aside from sleeping, people only spend about three hours a day doing other activities like exercising or spending time with their families.

“While technology may be a logical scapegoat, it is actually just a new-age mask for an age-old problem: poor management and poor leadership,” the report stated.

SAP Chief Human Resources Officer Stefan Ries concurred.

Although people are connected to smart devices “24/7, it is very important for each and every employee to realize that you need a balanced life,” Ries told SHRM Online during the Walldorf, Germany-based software company’s technology conference here in Fla. Otherwise, people will “burn out.” What employers should do, he said, is spend time educating their leaders to set a tone where people aren’t expected to work on their off hours.

“Don’t expect employees to answer an e-mail within the next five minutes” of it being sent. “It won’t help you be an employer of choice.”

What Should HR Do?

Andrew Volin, an expert on wage and hour compensation and a partner at the Denver-based law firm of Sherman & Howard, had three tips for employers adjusting to the new overtime regulation:

  1. Figure out for each job whether it will be exempt, and if not, how to approach the overtime issue.
  2. For workers who will be hourly, figure out how to track all hours worked—using verification systems as well.
  3. Determine the communications and training needed to implement these changes.

Volin said he believes the new law will change the workplace culture. “There will be an increased emphasis on tracking hours worked and an increased number of claims for companies who stumble at this step.” 

While “most workers can have their compensation prospectively changed, some may pose special problems. For example, someone with an employment contract might create a challenge if the change is not permitted by their contract,” he said.

Volin added that he expects some companies will seek out technologies that will help better track employee hours.

Once an employer has figured out that a job will now be classified as nonexempt, Volin said that an employer can choose from these tactics:

  • Increase the salary level to maintain the exemption—and not worry about overtime. 
  • Divide the current salary by 40 hours and switch to paying at an hourly rate—and worry about overtime. 
  • Convert an employee from salaried to hourly, based on actual hours worked, so the net cost is the same. But this will require “reliable information about hours worked, and final pay will vary with hours worked,” Volin said. 
  • Convert an employee from salaried exempt to salaried nonexempt and pay overtime for excess hours. 
  • Institute a fluctuating workweek where “salary is for all hours worked, including overtime.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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