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Blog: Should BlackBerry Users Demand Overtime Pay? Some Lawyers Advise Drafting Corporate Use Policies Now

Blog: Should BlackBerry Users Demand Overtime Pay? Some Lawyers Advise Drafting Corporate Use Policies Now

They don't call 'em CrackBerrys for nothing.

Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry smartphone, along with a wide variety of Web-enabled mobile phones like Apple's popular iPhone, Windows Mobile and Nokia devices, can be downright addictive to some folks.

Addiction to anything, be it illicit drugs or cutting-edge gadgets, is unhealthy. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines addiction as: "Persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful." I think some BlackBerry users might argue their precious devices aren't harmful-and they're not really substances-but others more familiar with the dreaded BlackBerry Thumb and its potential health impediments would be more likely to agree that device obsession is a problem.

But another issue is coming to light as more and more businesspeople pick up BlackBerrys: What 24/7 smartphone connectivity, which is the first step on the road to BlackBerry addiction, means to the businesses and corporations that issue such devices to their employees.

A recent fracas between ABC-TV, a handful of its writers and producers and the Writer's Guild of America East (WGAE) may be a harbinger of things to come. To make a long drama short, ABC staffers requested that they be compensated by the company for time spent on their BlackBerrys outside of normal working hours, according to CBSNews.com. At first ABC denied the request, saying an "agreement" between the company and its employees had been in place for years that states no overtime pay would be doled out to writers with company BlackBerrys, Telegraph.co.uk reports. ABC then issued waivers to its BlackBerry users asking them to acknowledge that they may be required to use their smartphones during off hours without any additional pay.

That's when the WGAE stepped in and instructed the writers not to sign or agree to the terms within the document, which prompted ABC to revoke the non-compliant writers and producers' BlackBerrys, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Shortly thereafter, the disagreement was reportedly settled, with the return of the confiscated BlackBerrys and the agreement on the part of ABC to compensate its staffers who use their mobile devices "beyond routine." So, in effect, ABC said it will pay the BlackBerry users who employ their devices most frequently for work outside of traditional hours. And you can bet the company also created its own official corporate smartphone overtime compensation policy, to help avoid such confusion in the future.

This approach of creating an official BlackBerry overtime policy, is becoming common-though I suspect few companies are actually agreeing to pay for afterhours smartphone use. In fact, a number of attorneys suggest that organizations follow ABC's lead and draft BlackBerry-use policies before they're brought to court by disgruntled employees or workers claiming to be suffering from related health ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome.

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