Back in August, the California Appeals Court ruled that when employees are required to use their personal cellphones for work-related calls, the employer must reimburse “a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills.” That holds true whether the user has an unlimited plan or not.
Now that this ruling is officially in effect, it's hard to believe some of the attention-grabbing headlines that originally surfaced:
“Court Ruling Could Bring Down BYOD” — “California Court Ruling Threatens BYOD Programs” — “CA Ruling Major Blow to BYOD!”
Does this ruling really mean BYOD is about to fall off the proverbial cliff?
Not in the least. Many employers have provided prorated reimbursement of call minutes and data for years and will continue to do so under BYOD policies (which, by the way, won’t go away any time soon).
It is important to call out that the class-action lawsuit fueling this ruling seems to be a situation where the employees needed to use a mobile device but did not have the option of using an employer-provided device (e.g., a laptop) or employer-provided connectivity (e.g., office phone network). Rather, the issue involved field representatives who were regularly required to use their personal cellphone plans for business purposes.
If employees are offered a choice — use of a company-provided phone, use of their own device with the understanding of no reimbursement — the employer would not be required to provide reimbursement of personal cellphone bills. In addition, if employees do not need a mobile device for work but prefer the convenience of accessing work outside the office, then reimbursement is not required.
What does the ruling really mean for BYOD?
California employers may need to re-think their BYOD reimbursement policies and make sure they have a clearly defined BYOD policy and strategy in place for their organizations (all good actions to take).
It’s also a wake-up call for employers who may be taking advantage of the consumerization of IT and making employees use their own mobile devices and data plans for work without offering any level of reimbursement or the option of providing a company-owned device.
At the end of the day, the value of BYOD lies in giving employees the ability to use the device of their choice to improve productivity — not infringing on their rights, whether that means offloading mobile costs to the user or requiring a solution that can remotely wipe the user’s personal device.
It’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to BYOD, and it’s a delicate balancing act to accommodate the needs of all parties involved.