Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 12, 2013

An increasing number of employers are allowing their employees to use their own personal mobile devices for work purposes, a trend known as BYOD. In fact, as many as 80 percent of smartphones used for work are reportedly employee-owned. But this increased usage of personal devices also brings with it some potential pitfalls for employers.

In a new XpertHR Presents podcast, Legal Editor Beth Zoller details a litany of concerns employers need to be aware of, including:

  • The possible loss of confidential data;
  • Inappropriate employee postings;
  • Privacy concerns;
  • Overtime pay issues; and
  • Cell phone use while driving that could lead to employer liability.

Coca-Cola learned the last of those lessons the hard way after it was hit in 2012 with a $21-million jury verdict in Texas in a distracted driving lawsuit.

HR Solutions

In terms of HR solutions, Zoller says, "An employer might want to have its most high-level employees use only the employer's devices because they are going to be dealing with a lot of sensitive information." Among many other things, she also suggests that employers need a comprehensive BYOD policy that clearly articulates:

  • The types of devices the employer permits;
  • The kind of information an employee may keep on the device;
  • What apps are permissible;
  • What happens if the device is lost or stolen; and that
  • All antidiscrimination policies extend to the use of the personal device.

Balancing the Risks With the Benefits

Despite the many risks of BYOD, Zoller says there are some smart security measures employers can take to minimize liability and that there are even some benefits for employers that institute a strong policy:

"Employees may be more responsible with and take better care of their own devices than those provided by an employer... BYOD can also be cost-effective for employers, and employees' devices are sometimes more sophisticated [than those of the employer]." Zoller also notes that when employees use their own devices it enables employers to reduce the amount of time needed to train employees to use employer-provided devices.

Additional Resources

BYOD Beware? HR Issues Around Bring Your Own Device Policies

Employee Management > Employee Handbooks - Work Rules - Employee Conduct > Bring Your Own (BYOD) Device