Cell Phone Policy (Reimbursement/Company Phone)

 

OPTIONS FOR CELL PHONE PROGRAMS:

Employers may offer company provided phones, a cell phone allowance or cell phone reimbursement, or some combination.  Often for low use, for example, a cell phone reimbursement or allowance might be appropriate.  If you are seeking to have more control over the phone use and numbers, issuing company cell phones is an easier option.  This policy includes all options – remove any that do not apply.

PRIVACY:

Included in this document is a comprehensive policy with strong legal protections for employers in North Carolina.  Balancing respect for employee privacy with these protection for your company is important for employee morale. 

Creating a less aggressive policy may be a low risk step to take in consideration of morale if your organization clearly sets boundaries for IT and management investigations. 

Employers that choose to omit the lengthier privacy warning could replace it with: “Employees should have no expectation of privacy at all on company technology, and should have no expectation of privacy at all on their own personal technology when they are using company applications, communicating with others connected to the company or communicating on behalf or as a representative of the organization.  In addition, if a communication results in customers or employee complaints and impacts business or morale, it will be investigated.  Communications covered in this statement include but are not limited to email, voice mail, telephone conversations, social media posts and activity, texts and instant messages.”

If you choose to take this route, there are some risks; these will be lessened if you enforce your company’s compliance with internal investigation policies that ensure that:

  • Employee usage data (including applications, web sites, etc.) is reviewed on a general “audit” basis to identify overall concerns. 
  • Employees are notified if there is an investigation into specific usage due to an audit.
  • The company reviews data at the minimal level related to the concerns, unless other serious concerns arise in an investigation.  For example, if reviewing whether an employee spends too much time on social media, the company will not need to look at individual postings.   However, if an employee has a public Facebook profile and the company has received a complaint from an employee about a discriminatory message, then the company would review the employee’s Facebook posts.
  • The company will not avoid actively reviewing items that are completely personal, even if they are encountered when investigating.
  • Investigations are kept as confidential as possible.
  • An example of a company which should not take this step would be a company with no particular policies surrounding such investigations, where the Information Technology Dept. might choose to log in to a person’s personal email, for example, due to saved passwords, even though tangential to an investigation, which could be a legal violation in many states and could certainly result in legal challenges.

Cell Phone Policy

 [ABC Company] requires certain positions to have availability for work, emergency calls and customer contact after work hours.  A full list of positions which are authorized as requiring cell phones for the performance of their job are determined by management and are maintained by the [Information Technology Department].  No additions may be made to the list without express authorization from the [Division VP] of the requesting manager’s department.

This policy is important for the protection of company property and data and for the protection of staff and customers, and failure to follow these rules will subject the employee to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

IMPORTANT: Privacy & Safety (Company and Personal Phones used for company business)

  • Company phones and personal phones used for company business should be password protected. 
  • Consult our IT policies related to downloads from emails, links in messages, etc. to ensure you keep your personal or company phone safe from malware, viruses, etc.
  • Company phone users should be aware that company phones and related systems are owned by [ABC Company].  The company reserves the right to monitor, intercept, and review, without further notice, every employee’s data and activity, including but not limited to individual user’s emails (both outgoing and incoming), telephone conversations and voice mail recordings, instant messages, internet and social media postings and activities, and employees consent to such monitoring by your acknowledgement of this policy and your use of the phone.  This might include, without limitation, the monitoring, intercepting, accessing, recording, disclosing, inspecting, reviewing, retrieving, and printing of transactions, messages, communications, postings, log-ins, recordings, and other uses of the phone and related systems.
  • The paragraph above also applies to the usage of personal phones for company business or company-related activities.   All such activity on your phone may be monitored, intercepted and reviewed without further notice at any time by the company.  Employees using their personal phones consent to this practice in their acknowledgment of this policy.
  • Users must ensure that their use of technology complies with all company policies such as social media, harassment, workplace violence, etc.
  • The use of personal passwords on a company system/application is not grounds for an employee to claim privacy rights or other personal rights in the company e-mail system or other such systems.
  • See Social Media Policy related to taking and sharing pictures and videos of other staff.  No pictures should be taken of the workplace which reveal confidential business practices or financial data which could cause harm to the company if distributed outside the organization.  In addition, private information about customers or other employees should never be photographed.  At company events or parties, be sensitive about those who prefer not to be filmed or photographed.  It is best to get permission first (unless someone is simply in the background of a group picture) and remember to only share if it is OK with the others in the picture.

 (This section’s information on privacy could be placed in a separate “company information” policies, social media policies, etc. to which this policy might refer back to.)

Company Provided Cellular Telephones (Company cell phone costs would be considered income if the phone use was not required for business purposes or was primarily used for non-business reasons.  If you are providing cell phones as a “perk”, parts of this policy would not apply.

The company phone should be used primarily for company business.  Personal use should be limited.  Employees will be provided with information on any data limits, etc. which may impact their use of the phone and should ensure that their use does not exceed that level.  This level is beyond the amount which normally would be required for work purposes; however, if you find that the limit is not sufficient, make your manager aware and the company can discuss alternatives.

Employees who exceed the data usage limits will be counseled and reminded of the usage amounts.  Further excess data usage will result in corrective action unless it was for a demonstrated business purpose. [Note: Since it would be risky to try to recoup this cost legally from non-exempt employees, it may be best to not worry about the cost and deal with offenders through the corrective action process and make it clear up front that personal use of the phone is not permitted except for incidental calls.  If you wish to recoup costs, consult with an attorney as guidance will vary by state and exempt/non-exempt status.]

Users should be aware that the phone and related systems are owned by [ABC Company].  The company reserves the right to monitor, intercept, and review, without further notice, every employee’s data and activity, including but not limited to individual user’s emails (both outgoing and incoming), telephone conversations and voice mail recordings, instant messages, internet and social media postings and activities, and employees consent to such monitoring by your acknowledgement of this policy and your use of the phone.  The use of personal passwords on a company system is not grounds for an employee to claim privacy rights or other personal rights in the company e-mail system.  This might include, without limitation, the monitoring, intercepting, accessing, recording, disclosing, inspecting, reviewing, retrieving, and printing of transactions, messages, communications, postings, log-ins, recordings, and other uses of the phone and related systems. 

Users must ensure that their use of technology complies with all company policies such as social media, harassment, workplace violence, etc. The use of personal passwords on a company system is not grounds for an employee to claim privacy rights or other personal rights in the company e-mail system.

                  (See introduction for note on above paragraph)

Users should not permit anyone (other than approved the Information Technology Department or IT Department approved vendors or trainers) to access their phones.

Phones should be password protected in order to prevent unauthorized access to data.  Consult our IT policies related to downloads from emails, links in messages, etc. to ensure you keep your phone safe from malware, viruses, etc.  In addition, phones should be kept in secure locations (not on the seat of your unlocked car, as an example) and directions related to care/temperature, etc. should be followed to ensure the phone has a long life.  If your phone is damaged or lost, immediately notify the Information Technology Department.

All company cell phones must be returned to the organization upon termination or change of position resulting in loss of phone, to be wiped and re-used for other employees.  The company may seek repayment for unreturned phones.

Note: Getting reimbursed for unreturned company property is not possible with an exempt employee; with a non-exempt employee in North Carolina this would require a deduction authorization specifying the exact amount and reason, as well as a notification that the cost would be recouped from the final paycheck sent by the company.  The employee should sign and date this authorization at the beginning of upon hire or assignment of the phone: “I, Jane Smith, have received a cell phone valued at $1500 to use in conjunction with my work assignments with Any Company.  I understand that if I fail to return the phone upon my separation of employment, $1500 will be deducted from my final paycheck.”  The company should abide by deduction rules such as not reducing wages below minimum wage and making no deduction from overtime wages.  For non-exempt employees in other states, please review state law requirements to ensure legal compliance.

Personal Cellular Telephones – Reimbursement Policy Note: This policy is legal in the state of NC, but should be reviewed if employee is working in another state.  Cellular phone costs are reimbursable only to the extent that the usage is for business-related purposes.  Therefore reimbursing the full cost of a plan no matter the cost is not appropriate since at least a portion would be considered income.)

The company’s [Information Technology Department] maintains a list of positions which are approved for reimbursement of business use of their personal telephones.  Individuals who have their own personal cellular telephones will receive reimbursement for business use of personal phones as outlined below.  Whether they are low or high use will be designated by the company:

  • Low use individuals (occasional emergency calls, texts, etc.): $25.00 per month.
  • High use individuals (frequent and more lengthy calls, emails or texts): $50.00 per month.

The travel expense reimbursement form along with a copy of the telephone bill must be forwarded to the employee’s manager for approval.  After approval, the form will be forwarded to the Accounting Department for processing.  Checks will be mailed to the employee’s home address within the normal accounts payable cycle.

If an employee’s cell phone bill is below the authorized reimbursement amount, employees will only be reimbursed only to 25% of the bill (low use) or 50% of the amount of the bill (high use).

ALTERNATIVE:

Personal Cellular Telephones – Allowance Policy (Note: This policy is legal in the state of NC, but should be reviewed if employee is working in another state.)

Prudent use of cellular telephones by those in authorized positions for business-related calls is approved.  Individuals who use their own personal cellphone for company use will receive an allowance for business use of personal phones as outlined below.  Whether they are low or high use will be designated by the company:

  • Low use individuals (occasional emergency calls, texts, etc.): $25.00 per month.
  • High use individuals (frequent and more lengthy calls, emails or texts): $50.00 per month.

(Note: This amount can vary based on your area, use, etc.  Please be aware that without some type of ongoing substantiation process to avoid over-payment this amount is considered compensation and will be subject to employment taxes.)

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