In the workplace, technology has been credited with improving efficiency and in general making it easier for employees to communicate with superiors, colleagues and customers. Increasingly, however, many workplaces are using technologies like laptops, email and smartphones to exploit workers who are expected to essentially be on call and respond to work-related matters during the evenings and on the weekends.
While increased access to employees has definitely benefitted employers whose expectations of 27/7 communication, while tacit, are loud and clear to employees; most employees are simply working more hours for no more pay.
A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of respondents "regularly performed some job tasks outside the workplace," and 35 percent admitted that their work hours have increased due to the implementation of digital technology in their workplaces.
Currently, federal law dictates that workers who earn a weekly wage of more than $455 or an annual salary of $23,660 are typically not eligible to receive overtime pay. However, many workers and employee rights advocates argue that factors related to exempt and non-exempt status and the total number of hours worked per week must be taken into account.
Some expect that federal laws will soon change to increase the overtime annual salary "floor" to $50,000. This would mean that an employee who brings home an annual salary of $45,000 would be eligible to receive overtime pay for the extra hours he or she puts in answering work emails and fielding work-related calls.
Workers, who believe they are being taken advantage of or exploited due to company policies with regard to the use of digital technology outside normal working hours, may choose to discuss their situation with an attorney. Employment laws in the U.S. are changing and evolving to account for the use of new digital technologies, and employers must adjust their expectations and pay accordingly.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Can You Sue the Boss for Making You Answer Late-Night Email?," Lauren Weber, May 20, 2015