A recent ruling by the California Court of Appeals may have sounded the death knell for the bring your own device trend (BYOD) that's sweeping the nation. At issue is whether the enterprise mobile solution should be paid for by employers when used by an employee for work-related conversations.
Can Employees Charge Companies For Cellphone Bills Or Minute Usage While Doing Company Business?
Up until the ruling by the California court, workers would use their cellphones for company business without any compensation towards phone bills, but the court changed all that. In the case of Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, the court said the California Labor Code mandates that employers pay staffers for calls made on personal phones on the company's behalf. Regardless of the cellphone plans -- unlimited minutes or limited -- the reimbursement owed to the employee is a percentage of the bill. The National Law Review's analysis of the decision showed that, after this, there's no place for the case to go, short of the U.S. Supreme Court, so the ruling likely will stand.
BYOD On The Way Out?
Hyoun Park with DataHive Consulting has been following the case. He explained that this court may have dropped the final curtain on BYOD.
"I think this is going to be a deal killer for a lot of companies, especially those that have a significant California employee base," Park said. "This is the first real ruling that has been binding in the BYOD space."
The decision becomes law in 30 days, and that means companies will need to respond quickly to change their BYOD programs. The aftershocks may be felt for weeks, added a report in the online industry magazine CIO.
Vague On Specifics
Like many ground-breaking court rulings this edict is rife with vagueness, said CIO. The judges said that this case only covered phone calls. Data transactions that were work related and the use of apps on a personal device for work were not. Those usages are generally the better part of a BYOD telephone bill. Park thought that concept may change.
"It seems like an artificial division," he noted.
How Will All Parties Be Affected?
As legal eagles examine and interpret the courts' decision, business managers and employees both try to figure out how to implement the ruling. If the court definition stands as is and companies must pay a reasonable percentage of the bills when calls are made to conduct work operations, does that mean monthly reimbursement to workers? There's no clear answer according to Park.
"The ruling states that this type of thing has to be figured out on an individual basis," Park said. "That's a big, messy cauldron in the making."
The court ruled the following:
"To show liability under section 2802, an employee need only show that he or she was required to use a personal cell phone to make work-related calls, and he or she was not reimbursed."
A ZDNet story on the decision claimed the court came down on the side of the employees in this matter, but it still leaves a number of questions wide-open. Employers will need to examine the ruling very carefully before proceeding with any mitigation plans, said the article.
Vendors May Net Some Gains
Some payment vendors are looking at the court decision as an opportunity for gains. Josh Bouck with Cass Information Systems explained how his company and other vendors in similar industries can increase their bottom line as a result.
"We're aware of this decision and candidly, we're not 'unpleased,' explained Bouk. "Based on my understanding -- and I'm certainly not offering legal advice -- under this ruling, any organization with California employees who use their personal phones for business purposes will need to implement a stipend policy of some kind.
Bouk added that for BYOD as a stand alone, more employers would likely move to a platform program rather than risk non-compliance with the law.
The ruling is still appealable but no decisions have been made. The National Law Review advised California employers to make plans now and begin implementing changes to their enterprise mobile solutions just in case the law really goes into effect within 30 days.