While I’m off the clock, can my employer call my personal cell phone and harass me?

This is my day off. My one day to not have to think about anything work related. My boss calls today. I did not answer as this is my day off. He left a message that is scolding me for putting too many staples in a document, Yeah, seriously. Now let me explain. The paperwork went to the billing assistant and she is my boss’s sister-in-law, who also lives with him. We have a nepotism policy at our company which isn’t followed. I asked him to not call my personal cell while I’m off duty to scold me. His reply was taking me off my next shift as punishment. I’m worried I did something wrong.

Asked on September 26, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no law which says that an employer may not call you when you off the clock--e.g. before or after shift, on weekends or holidays, etc. So the employer may call you.

2) If the employer does call you and make you spend time talking about work, that, however, *is* work, and you should have been paid for it--e.g. if he talked live to you for 15 minutes, you should be paid for another 15 minutes of work that week. (Arguably, for a message, you have control over whether and when you listen, so they might not have to pay you.)

3) You can ask your employer to not call your personal cell, but you can't make him/her listen to you or do that.

4) An anti-nepotism policy is not legally enforceable (unless, arguably, it's in a contract, like a union agreement): a company chooses to have such a policy, and can choose to not have one, or to have one and not honor it.

5) Unless you have an employment contract, you are an employee at will, and the employee may discipline, punish, suspend, fire, etc. you at will.

In short, you probably have very few, if any, enforceable rights in this situation.

For whatever it's worth, I do sympathize--I was once called into a senior attorney's office and lectured at for bad stapling; in my case, it was because I stapled diagonally at the corner rather than parallel to the top edge. Some people have way too much time on their hands and get concerned about the most trivial things.


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