Court Rulings Place BYOD Policies in the Spotlight
Recent court rulings are shining a spotlight on the role of BYOD policies in the workplace. An August 2014 ruling by the California Court of Appeals determined that California employers must reimburse employees for work-related phone calls made on their personal cell phones or face liability. In Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, Inc., the court ruled that under California Labor Code section 2802, employers must reimburse employees for "necessary expenditures" incurred in performing their duties. According to legal experts, employers in California must now reimburse employees for a "reasonable percentage" of their personal wireless bills if they use their devices for work.
The ruling could have ramifications for BYOD reimbursement in other states, as legal battles have cropped up in Michigan, New Jersey, and Washington. The California ruling and judgments in other states underscore the importance of having a BYOD policy in place and clearly communicating these policies to employees. In November 2014, a federal judge in Texas ruled that an employer who wiped a terminated employee’s personal device didn’t violate his privacy rights. The ruling was made against Saman Rajaee, who had been employed by Houston-based construction firm Design Tech. When Rajaee informed Design Tech that he planned to leave the company in February 2015.
Design Tech, which did not have a personal device policy, immediately terminated his contract and wiped his device. Rajaee complained that the data loss, which included more than 600 business contacts, family photos, and information regarding a home remodeling project, amounted to $100,000 worth of information. Rajaee’s complaint was dismissed without prejudice by the judge, who stated in the ruling that the plaintiff had “not produced evidence of any costs he incurred to investigate or respond to the deletion of his data, nor do the losses and damages for which he does produce evidence arise from an interruption of service.” Because the case was dismissed without prejudice, this means that Rajaee can pursue further action in state court.