Is it legal for an employer to require hourly employees to participate in text message threads and groups on their personal phones?

My wife works an hourly retail job as a supervisor for a major retailer. Recently 1-2 years a new GM for the store required all supervisors to participate in a text message group to relay information to each other. The business has a robust in office communication system which includes private in-boxes and an email system as well as team inboxes. However, from what I understand, much of this system has been abandoned in favor of a simplified system using the employees’ personal cell phones to pass important business messages. First, this system does not account for when the employees are on the clock, meaning that it creates a scenario of mandatory free labor. Second, the company does not own or pay for service on these phones, so should they have any jurisdiction to how they are used?

Asked on April 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First of all, non-exempt (typically hourly) employees must be paid for all time worked, including work duties that are performed when they are otherwise "off the clock". To the extent that this time puts them over 40 hours in their work week, then such time should be paid as OT. Secondly, unless there exists an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary, an employer can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). This includes having workers use their personal cell phones (or any other equipment) in the performance of their work duties and to do so without reimbursement.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.