Many have watched, wondered and waited for the first Legal shoe to drop in the evolving trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) as the waters were murky and clouded with fear and uncertainty. On August 12th the California Second District Appellate Court issued a ruling that while simple in its decision, is bound to have profound and far-reaching impact on Companies across the Country.
BYOD in Court
The Court heard the case of Cochran v Schwan’s Home Service with a seemingly simple request from Cochran: if an employee has to use their personal cell phone for work, then they should have a portion of their monthly bill amount subsidized by their employer. Equally simple is the BYOD premise that instead of company’s buying phones and paying for the monthly plans, the company simply subsidizes employees (and in many cases pays for the phone as well) for their own personal phones that are also used for business calls/emails. On the surface “A wants money from B, B agrees to give money to A’… simple enough, no?
According to the California Court, no indeed, even if the employee has an “unlimited plan” and the cost of making calls or sending emails does not increase the monthly cost at all. The Court ruled that if an employee is required to use their personal device for work-related purposes then the employer must pay a portion of the costs. They further ruled against one-size fits all stipends (the BYOD standard), as some employees have to use their devices more, have higher-priced plans or more expensive carriers.
The Administrative costs of compliance would be staggering, both in terms of time and money. This ruling is not final as it can be appealed, so the decision is not a definitive death knell for BYOD, but rather a possible precursor of rulings likely to come in cases being fought in multiple other States. Issues at hand rage far beyond partial bill payment. Examples include whether hourly workers are “working overtime” by checking email after hours, or the IRS position on employers buying phones for employees (benefit or taxable income?) or company rights on “wiping” lost devices (thus erasing employees personal items) to protect confidential company/customer information on the device… and the list goes on and on.
What’s Next for BYOD?
One upside is the opportunity for software/app developers to create solutions that track company use, thereby minimizing the time requirement on determining the exact amount of work-related usage. No one is sure what the outcome will be but the one thing that is certain is that more rulings are to be handed down soon that will shape the direction of this movement as wise Leaders are busy looking for solutions now so they do not get caught unprepared.
[author_bio username=”Barry” name=”yes”]