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Suspension of County Employee Teaches Important Lesson About use of Mobile Technology

Employees think the four-inch device in their pockets is theirs, and what they email, text, Facebook, etc., is not the employer's business. They're wrong.

June 20, 2014
Related Topics: Policies and Procedures, Bring Your Own Device, Legal, Technology
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We love our phones. We are an iPhone society. I’ve referred to the phenomenon as “iPhone-ification.” Do you know that there are more mobile phones than people in the United States? Moreover, 90 percent of American adults own mobile phones, and nearly 60 percent are “smart.”

Despite the proliferation of mobile phones, and their use in work and for work, many employees still do not understand the difference between work use and personal use.

Case in point? Yesterday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Cuyahoga County suspended a supervisor for using his county-issued cell phone to send unwelcome sexual text messages to a co-worker. According to the County [pdf], the employee used his phone to flirt and text sexual innuendo, even after the recipient told him to stop.

From this story, I offer two lessons — one for employees and one for employers.

  • For employees, please stop using your work phones (and that includes your own personal devices that your employer allows you to connect to its network, i.e, BYOD) for personal business that will get you in trouble at work. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t email it, text it, Facebook it, or otherwise send it via your phone. Just because we treat our phones like members of our families does not mean that their content is off limits to employers. They’re not. 
  • For employers, communicate this message to your employees. Trust me, they don’t get it. They think the four-inch device in their pockets is theirs, and what they email, text, Facebook, etc., is not your business. Spell it out, in plain English in a mobile device policy. And reinforce that message in training sessions.
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