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Employer Charging for personal cell phone usage California

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  • Employer Charging for personal cell phone usage California

    I work for a local government agency in the state of california. They have issued several of us cell phones for business use. The plan allows for 250 minutes for $40/month. After about a month of having the phones, we were told that we had to pay ten cents per minute for personal calls regardless of whether there was an extra charge for the call. For example, I called my wife on several occasions equaling about 10 minutes total of personal use for the month. They want to charge me $1 for using the phone for personal use even though those minutes are already included in the plan. They're basically making money off us - we are subsidising their phone bill. Also, I found out that that higher ranking individuals don't have to pay this fee for personal calls.

    Is this legal? Can someone point me in the right direction with regards to resources concerning this issue? Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    The quick and easy way around this is not to use the business cell phone for personal calls. End of problem.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by ElleMD
      The quick and easy way around this is not to use the business cell phone for personal calls. End of problem.
      Yes of course. In fact, since learning of this policy I just turned my phone off and put it in the drawer. My question was in regards to the legalities of this practice. They are charging us for what we didn't use. In my eyes, the cell phone service is simply another business expense. What if it were the landline phone. They are already paying the service fee for it. If my wife calls me or I call my wife, for example, is it legal for them to charge me for the usage even though it costs them nothing extra? I'm interested in the legal standing of this practice. If anyone can point me to laws or discussion on this.

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes, it is legal for them to charge you for personal calls made on a business phone. Do you really imagine that either the Federal or state government is going to make a law that says an employer is required to pay for the employee's personal calls?
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

        Comment


        • #5
          But what if the public employer is in fact not paying for the personal calls. For example, this employer pays $40/month for 250 minutes. If the OP's minutes foe the month are not greater than 250, even with personal phone calls, then the employer still pays $40 and would have paid $40 regardless.

          It may just be illegal to charge for calls they are not charged for. For example, can they charge minutes if they are not a phone carrier? Would their rate be considered price gouging? I do not know, but it may be worth further inquiry.

          Even if it is not illegal, it may be considered unethical under the above-hypothetical. IMHO, it would be enough to may a stink over.

          Was there policy provided regarding the use of the phone when they were provided? If so, what if anything did it state regarding personal use?

          Comment


          • #6
            just a comment

            Originally posted by rjc
            But what if the public employer is in fact not paying for the personal calls. For example, this employer pays $40/month for 250 minutes. If the OP's minutes foe the month are not greater than 250, even with personal phone calls, then the employer still pays $40 and would have paid $40 regardless.

            It may just be illegal to charge for calls they are not charged for. For example, can they charge minutes if they are not a phone carrier? Would their rate be considered price gouging? I do not know, but it may be worth further inquiry.

            Even if it is not illegal, it may be considered unethical under the above-hypothetical. IMHO, it would be enough to may a stink over.

            Was there policy provided regarding the use of the phone when they were provided? If so, what if anything did it state regarding personal use?
            This is a work cell phone,not a personal cell phone. They probably impose the fees to keep workers from using the phone to make personal phone calls. It is your employers right to impose fees for something other than what they gave you the phone for,business calls. I think they should have told you about the fees when they handed you the phone,but maybe they figured that you wouldn't use it other than for the business calls themselves. Is there the possibility that they could repremend you for making private phone calls on company time? I don't know if it would be worth it in the long run to make any complaints. They probably have the times listed that the calls were made,and if you were not on a given lunch break or given break time,you could get in trouble for that. They may also say,the time you spoke to your wife didn't cause you to go over the minutes,but if you were to use the phone for business purposes,unforseen by you,after the personal calls,then you may end up going over the minutes we have,and cost us money. So you can call it a company safe guard,that if they are going to pay for any minutes over the alloted time,it would NOT be because of any personal phone calls made on top of the business phone calls.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by cbg
              Yes, it is legal for them to charge you for personal calls made on a business phone. Do you really imagine that either the Federal or state government is going to make a law that says an employer is required to pay for the employee's personal calls?

              Re-read my first post. They pay a $40/month fee which includes 250 minutes. That $40/month is paid regardless of what calls are made up to the 250 minutes. After the 250 minutes are used up, then the employer will incurr extra charges. However, the employer is charging the employees ten cents per minute for personal calls even though the 250 minutes is not being exceeded. I can see having to pay if you caused the phone bill to exceed the maximum for the plan, therefore causing extra charges to appear on the phone bill.

              Think of this in another way. If you were an employer would you charge your employees to send and receive personal email through the company internet connection which is readily provided by your business? What about a land-line phone? Will you charge your employee for making a personal call on the land-line phone even if you are not incurring any extra costs of that phone line?

              I think it's illegal. It's certainly unethical to say the least.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by turbowray
                This is a work cell phone,not a personal cell phone. They probably impose the fees to keep workers from using the phone to make personal phone calls. It is your employers right to impose fees for something other than what they gave you the phone for,business calls. I think they should have told you about the fees when they handed you the phone,but maybe they figured that you wouldn't use it other than for the business calls themselves. Is there the possibility that they could repremend you for making private phone calls on company time? I don't know if it would be worth it in the long run to make any complaints. They probably have the times listed that the calls were made,and if you were not on a given lunch break or given break time,you could get in trouble for that. They may also say,the time you spoke to your wife didn't cause you to go over the minutes,but if you were to use the phone for business purposes,unforseen by you,after the personal calls,then you may end up going over the minutes we have,and cost us money. So you can call it a company safe guard,that if they are going to pay for any minutes over the alloted time,it would NOT be because of any personal phone calls made on top of the business phone calls.
                In my opinion, there is a certain amount of "discretionary" waste that the employer should expect when issuing an employee a cell phone. They are paying the fee because they want to be able to get a hold of me. But they rarely if ever call me. I on the other hand work off site frequently. So if my wife needs to get a hold of me, or I my wife, we use the cell phone. Don't get me wrong, we're not gabbing on the phone all day. Since the phone was issued I have about 20 minutes since January. So what's the problem with using some of the time at my discretion. As it is I turned the phone off and stuck it in my drawer. Now I carry my personal cell phone with me (which BTW is smaller and only .03/minute). I refuse to carry two phones. As an IT guy I have too many gadgets without worrying about two phones. So now they're paying for a cellular service that is not being used at all.

                I just think it's wrong for them to charge their emloyees for what they are already paying for. They might as well start charging me rent for my office because I do use it to surf the web on my breaks. So that means that at that time my office is not being used for business and therefore subject to a rental fee.
                TurboAddict
                Junior Member
                Last edited by TurboAddict; 06-13-2006, 05:54 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  TurboAddict, are you a manager or a union member in this public agency?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    hi

                    Originally posted by TurboAddict
                    In my opinion, there is a certain amount of "discretionary" waste that the employer should expect when issuing an employee a cell phone. They are paying the fee because they want to be able to get a hold of me. But they rarely if ever call me. I on the other hand work off site frequently. So if my wife needs to get a hold of me, or I my wife, we use the cell phone. Don't get me wrong, we're not gabbing on the phone all day. Since the phone was issued I have about 20 minutes since January. So what's the problem with using some of the time at my discretion. As it is I turned the phone off and stuck it in my drawer. Now I carry my personal cell phone with me (which BTW is smaller and only .03/minute). I refuse to carry two phones. As an IT guy I have too many gadgets without worrying about two phones. So now they're paying for a cellular service that is not being used at all.

                    I just think it's wrong for them to charge their emloyees for what they are already paying for. They might as well start charging me rent for my office because I do use it to surf the web on my breaks. So that means that at that time my office is not being used for business and therefore subject to a rental fee.
                    I see your frustration,but on the other hand,since they pay for the service to be available on that phone allready (they do pay for the 250 minutes allready),they can charge you if they wish. It may be petty,but it is thier choice. If they have handed you this phone,can you get in trouble for not having it on or on you? I just don't see any legal recourse here,even though i see your point,it won't stand up in any court,if it did,believe me,the other senior members would be the first to tell you of this. I would if you refuse to have 2 phones,carry the work one during work hours,or they may discipline you for not doing so. I would hate to see you get in trouble just because you want to prove a point.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      RJC:

                      Yes I'm a member of a union. I am not management.

                      Turbowray:
                      As far as I know I'm not required to carry the cell phone.

                      Thanks to both of you for your input.
                      TurboAddict
                      Junior Member
                      Last edited by TurboAddict; 06-13-2006, 07:31 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        anytime

                        Originally posted by TurboAddict
                        RJC:

                        Yes I'm a member of a union. I am not management.

                        Turbowray:
                        As far as I know I'm not required to carry the cell phone.

                        Thanks to both of you for your input.
                        Sorry we couldn't provide the answers you were looking for,we only tell it how we see it. Hope we didnt offend you!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by turbowray
                          Sorry we couldn't provide the answers you were looking for,we only tell it how we see it. Hope we didnt offend you!
                          No offense taken at all. I just think it's an outrage for a company to treat their employees like this. I'm all about being fair and these people are definately not fair. This is not the only unsavory practice going on here either. They habitually subtract overtime from time sheets and change the the time sheets not in accordance with standard rounding rules. It always favors the employer. It's like thery're trying to make money off the employees to subsidise operating expenses.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            hmmm

                            Originally posted by TurboAddict
                            No offense taken at all. I just think it's an outrage for a company to treat their employees like this. I'm all about being fair and these people are definately not fair. This is not the only unsavory practice going on here either. They habitually subtract overtime from time sheets and change the the time sheets not in accordance with standard rounding rules. It always favors the employer. It's like thery're trying to make money off the employees to subsidise operating expenses.
                            That there would be a different issue all together. Can you be more specific like telling us what time you wrote in the sheets,that you got off,and what they changed it to? Where i work,if we work until 4:07,it is written at 4:00 but if it is 4:08,it is written in as 4:15,it is to the nearest quarter of an hour. When it is 4:20,it is written as 4:15 not 4:30. Everyone is different,so i can say that i am not aware of what the law makes the employee/employer do,just what we do only.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Rounding the the nearest 15-minute interval is allowable by the FLSA. More than that is considered a "substantial difference". If the rounding is not done consistently, no matter to whose advantage it results, then you probably have a claim for unpaid wages. You can contact the DLSE.
                              I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

                              Comment

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