Bring Your Own Device Policies (BYOD) – What HR Needs to Know


Smart phones and other technology have become the norm in the workplace, but who does the device belong to and why is it important? Many employees are bringing their own device to work at the request of their employer or of their own accord which raises a myriad of HR issues. There are many risks and costs involved with this “bring your own device” phenomena. Three major HR concerns that should be addressed in any BYOD policy are: 

Harassment: Most employers have a policy prohibiting sexual harassment, but this is quickly forgotten by employees using their own devices for work communication. Texting is a major problem area because employees are often more casual in texts than in email communication, which can lead to sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate texts. While employers cannot track texts on employees’ personal devices; recipients can and do save the texts and use them to sue the employer for sexual harassment. Reinforce that employees need to use good judgment and follow the employer’s policy, even when using their personal devices to communicate with co-workers and others during work time.

Company information on personal devices: While most employers have policies about return of company property upon termination, they may not address recovering company information on the employee’s smartphone or tablet. In a BYOD policy, you might consider limiting the opportunity for employees to store company information, or if you allow it to be stored, have a means to track or record what is kept on these devices. You may also want employees to sign a release saying they understand you may need to recover data from their personal devices upon separation (knowing that this might be difficult if the employee is terminated involuntarily).
Wage and Hour: Non-exempt workers must be paid for all work time, even if the time is not authorized. For this reason, many employers do not give non-exempt staff company-owned devices. Employers must be clear with non-exempt employees about the acceptability of using their personal devices for work and, if allowed, to record it as work time. Exempt staff using personal devices to work while on unpaid leaves of absence is another concern. Be clear that exempt employees are not to access company email or work-related data to perform any work while on unpaid leave.