California’s labor code requires employers reimburse their employees when they use their mobile phones for work-related calls, a state appellate court held, raising a question for the telecommunications industry: Will the decision discourage corporations from allowing workers to use their own gadgets?
“Whether the employees have cellphone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills," the Second Appellate District stated.
The decision was handed down in an era when an increasing number of employees use their smartphones, tablet computers and other personal devices at the corporate office, home office and on the road. Thirty-eight percent of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016, according to a 2013 global survey of CIOs by Gartner.
The ruling, however, raises the question of whether the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in the workplace – at least in California – will lose steam since employers must reimburse their workers.
“I don’t foresee this ruling will have any impact at all on the BYOD trend," said Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president, Cloud Transformation, at Petaluma, California-based Intelisys, a technology services distributor of telecommunications network services in the channel. “The benefits to a business are not just that they don’t pay for a cell bill for an employee. Most are already reimbursing for cell usage expenses when employees use their own device for business purposes."
BYOD appeals to employers, Pryfogle said, because they “no longer have to buy, distribute, control and manage devices."
“Employees can bring the device of their choice, and with the right MDM strategy, the employer can still control their secure data and available applications," he explained. “This is rapidly moving beyond a ‘trend’ and into mass adoption. Why? It simply makes better business sense."
Mike Saxby, vice president of Cellular Optimization, a New York-based consultant and mobility managed service provider that helps companies reduce their mobile expenses, has a different perspective.
He said employees who use their mobile phones at work create security risks for a company because the organization doesn’t own the phone number or anything else on the device. And if users need to access company assets, “IT finds itself having to support every device out there," he said.
“The internal support costs very quickly begin to outweigh the savings they believed they have delivered from going to BYOD," Saxby said.
Tem Wu, director of wireless at master agency WTG, gave us his perspective on how the ruling might impact the agent opportunity, saying that it depends on the final outcome.