BUSINESS LAW: Misuse of company time

2014-04-05T10:15:00Z BUSINESS LAW: Misuse of company timeJames Jorgensen Times Business Columnist
April 05, 2014 10:15 am  • 

It’s Wednesday afternoon. I have my telephone calls on hold and I’m trying to figure out how I have done so poorly on my NCAA tournament brackets (Villanova, what did I do to you?)

Studies show a mind-boggling amount of employees’ work time is diverted to March Madness. However, the misuse of employees’ time is a constant problem, transcending this time of year.

This is a problem typically covered in a handbook. The focus used to be limited to employees’ misuse of telephones. Employers would state that employees’ use of company telephones should not occur except for an emergency.

Technology greatly expands the employers’ concerns. Now, employers must address the employees’ personal use of computers, including the Internet/intranet and social networking sites.

The concept is the same. Most employers will recognize that this use will occur. Rather, they often try to limit the time of the usage to breaks and lunch. These policies must also address the substance of the use. If the technology is used for personal reasons, the use cannot violate the employers’ other policies, such as policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and bullying.

When limiting employees’ personal use of technology, employers, including non-union employers, must be mindful of the positions taken by the aggressive National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB has taken action to prevent employers from limiting employees from expressing opinions on matters related to concerted activities relating to the terms and conditions of employment. This can occur on company time.

This issue of employees’ use of company time and technology for nonbusiness purposes will always be a challenge for employers. For me, a bigger challenge is to do a better job in filling out my brackets, even if done on company time.

Opinions are solely the writer's. James Jorgensen practices law at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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