Some employers issue smartphones to their employees for use on the job. There are at least two reasons that employers should proceed cautiously before giving employees a smartphone.
First, a smartphone increases the risks of accidents of all kinds. Employees can trip and fall while checking e-mail. Or worse, they can have a car accident while texting and driving. Employers issuing smartphones should develop policies strictly limiting the use of those devices. More importantly, employers must follow those policies and discipline employees who fail to follow them.
Second, a recent decision from Chicago indicates that employees may be entitled to overtime for off-duty time spent working on a smartphone. Allen v. City of Chicago, 2015 WL 84939966 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 10, 2015). In Allen, the judge found that the employer was not required to pay overtime; but the judge also set up a framework under which smartphone use could be compensable. If off-duty e-mail is necessarily and primarily a part of the job and if the employer knows, or has reason to know, about the smartphone use, the employee may be entitled to overtime.
Once again, the lesson of Allen is that employers should have strict policies on smartphone use and enforce those policies.