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Incorporating Anti-Harassment into Your BYOD Policy

HR Policies & Procedures
by Chris Ceplenski

In today’s technological landscape, it’s becoming more and more common for employees to use personal devices while on the job—commonly referred to as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Employers often promote this practice because it reduces out-of-pocket expenses for the employer, since they no longer have to foot the bill to purchase new technology. However, there are a lot of risks.

One of the risks is that the employee may be more likely to use the device to commit wrongdoing – such as sexual harassment – since they feel less restricted on their own device, feeling it is a personal device and that somehow means fewer rules apply. How can an employer ensure that employees who are using their own devices will not be using them for nefarious purposes?

“Employees use their smartphones, their iPads, tablets, or what have you at work. Using these particular devices at work can make the company liable and expose the company or your clients to liability when certain laws are broken.” James Crumlin told us in a recent BLR webinar. So, what can be done about it?

“You have to make sure that you have a certain policy in place to safeguard against this type of liability.” Crumlin explained.

Sexting – sending texts of a sexual nature – has come up as a major area of concern. Studies have shown that 40 percent of adults up to the age of 34 admit to sexting or sending sexually explicit text messages. This is relevant for employers because, in recent court cases, this type of behavior is treated the same as if an employee made an inappropriate comment at work. And from a company point of view, this conduct can actually be even worse than verbal sexual harassment in person because it creates evidence of inappropriate conduct.

As such, it’s important to note in your BYOD policy that once a device is used to perform work, employers have the right to the information on it—and they can be held accountable for any laws broken through its use. Employers who implement a BYOD policy need to be sure it ties into their anti-harassment policy as well. The policy should not only highlight the fact that these devices cannot be used in any illegal way, the policy should also explain that just because it’s a personal device doesn’t mean the employee can expect a right to privacy on that device, and it also doesn’t mean that the same rules for workplace conduct don’t apply.

For more information on incorporating anti-harassment into your BYOD policy, order the webinar recording of “From Smartphones to iPads: Legal Issues When Employees Bring Their Own Devices to Work.” To register for a future webinar, visit http://store.blr.com/events/webinars.

James Crumlin is an employment lawyer, working in the Nashville office of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC. He concentrates his practice in the areas of labor and employment law, small business law and mid-size business representation, corporate business litigation and entertainment law.

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  1. Barb        
    December 30, 2013 7:29 pm

    If you require employees to use their own devices, can you really claim that they then forfeit their rights to privacy? Or do you have to give them the option of employer-provided devices to make that claim? Alternatively, should you describe limits on the info the employer has the right to access (e.g., business-related versus personal)?