Constant communication is a great thing when it is with your family or other people who bring you happiness and support. When it comes to your job, however, digital technology can put you in an unfair position.
If your employer gives you a company cellphone or control over a business email account, you may have no choice but to text with your boss or respond to client emails during your days off and your evenings. Can your employer constantly require your availability without paying you for that time?
The amount of time you spend affects your rights
Both state and federal laws entitle workers to fair compensation for the time that they work. If you are an hourly worker, you deserve pay for every minute of your time. Companies in California have lost lawsuits for making employees perform store closing duties after clocking out without paying them.
Expecting off-duty employees to respond to text messages, emails or even phone calls is another form of an employment demand that often goes unpaid. Federal courts have occasionally placed such off-duty communications in the de minimis category. This is a term meant to imply that the amount is so little, the occurrence so infrequent and the tracking so difficult that employers could legally avoid paying for it.
People can claim compensation for unpaid labor
Answering one text a month may not be grounds for a wage claim, but a few dozen every weekend could be. The more time employees must spend answering calls, texts and emails on their time off and the stronger the expectation that they will, the better the chances that the workers could have a wage claim against the company for these unpaid tasks.
It could be possible for workers who must repeatedly respond to digital communications during their time off without compensation to bring a claim against their employer. Especially if it is a company-wide practice potentially defrauding dozens of workers of hours of time every month, the resulting legal action could incentivize the employer to treat their workers fairly.