Your Company’s Cell Phone Policy
You do have one, right?
Mobile Device Distractions and Conducting Company Business
In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving. With the increasing reliance of employees on mobile communications this ban would have a major impact on employers. Increasingly employees are using mobile devices to stay connected with their work while out of the office. Conversations with clients, prospects and home office staff may be conducted while behind the wheel and doing company business. Many devices now enable full email and web browsing as well as standard texting. Many employers encourage employees to multi-task at the office, but should they be doing that when behind the wheel? According to the NTSB report over 3000 driving fatalities where reported in 2011 involving distracted drivers. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of commercial drivers found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, e-mailing or accessing the Internet.
Can the Employer Be Liable?
Employers should be rightly concerned about liability. So what happens if your employee is distracted by a call from the boss, or is setting an appointment or is engaged by any other form of smart phone distraction when conducting business… can the employer be held liable for the accident. The answer is YES. Under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” employers may be held liable for the tortuous conduct of an employee if a court decides that the employee was acting within the scope and responsibility of their employment. Traditionally the courts have examined the purpose of the trip, personal or business in deciding whether the employer may be liable. However, given the blurring of lines between personal and business activity especially with mobile communications, it is not a stretch for courts to hold employers responsible as well.Vicarious Liability Definition for Employers
Mobile Devices – You Need a Company Policy
The increasing regulatory scrutiny regarding the use of mobile devices while driving is a reminder of potential liability. While mobile devices have become a business necessity, a policy on their use may help limit liability if an employer is faced with a vicarious liability lawsuit. And besides, if the policy actually changes employees behavior behind the wheel, it may also be the best thing to do for your employees and other drivers as well. Establishing a policy is one thing, but communicating it and enforcing it is another. Courts may view an unenforced policy as simply a CYA for the employer and thus not a valid protection from liability. Employers need to establish the policy and work to ensure that the entire organization is abiding by it. If a mobile phone related event occurs, a reasonable, communicated and enforced policy is the only way to potentially insulate your company from exposure to liability. Such planning allows employers to assert that the employee was acting outside the scope of their authority and thus the employer should not be vicariously liable. Aside from reducing your company’s liability, just maybe making the roads and your employees a little safer is the right thing to do.Inc Magazine article on creating your own cell phone policy
How Can a PEO Help?
Hiring a PEO to assist your company provides instant access to some of the top experts regarding Human Resources subjects. Areas like employee handbooks and company policies (or lack thereof) can become significant liabilities if not addressed properly and updated regularly. In addition, PEOs can help you ensure that all of your employees are aware of the policy to prevent harm and potential litigation exposure that can bankrupt a company or drive insurance cost through the roof. Subjects that, while never on the front burner, can cause a lot damage if left unaddressed. Contact Staffmarket to learn more about how using a PEO can help your company face the future with confidence.Learn more about PEOs