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

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 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.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

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