There certainly has been no shortage of publicity about the potential for wage and hour claims for time spent by hourly employees using smartphones or other electronic devices for work while off duty. Many employers have tried to address the need to pay for such time, and to avoid litigation, by promulgating procedures for such employees to record and be paid for the hours they work on mobile devices. That should be the end of it, but litigation continues when employees, for their own reasons, choose not to follow those procedures or to put in for the additional time. But is the employer responsible for that?
That was the issue presented in Allen v. City of Chicago, Case No. 16-1029 (7th Cir. Aug. 3, 2017). In that case, the city of Chicago apparently provided BlackBerry devices for officers working in its organized crime division. Incidentally, the case was filed in 2010, when such devices were more common – the opinion does not reflect whether the falloff in the popularity of that product resulted in different mobile devices being provided. Officers who used the BlackBerrys when off duty, a frequent occurrence due to the nature of their work, could submit “time due slips” to their supervisors to be paid for that time. In many cases, however, the officers simply did not submit those slips and thus were never paid for the time they had spent on their mobile devices during off hours. As the trial court found, while supervisors could in theory cross-check the work done by the officers with their time slips to find instances where work was done but not compensated, doing so was largely impractical. Following a six-day bench trial, the trial court entered judgment against the class. Continue Reading