In a few short years mobile phones have become ubiquitous in both our personal and professional lives. Modern smartphones allow businesses to communicate rapidly with consumers and help employees work together effectively. Mobile phones on the market today can send and receive emails, upload media to social sites like Facebook and YouTube, and capture high quality images and video, among other capabilities. As more and more employees use cell phones, whether they use personal devices or ones issued by your business, it is imperative that your processes address how employees are permitted to use these devices. Here are a few issues to consider regarding employees and cell phone usage at your business:

Distracted Driving: Many states, such as New York and New Jersey, penalize drivers who are caught operating a motor vehicle while communicating via text messaging. These prohibitions are generally aimed at preventing “distracted driving.” Your business may incur liability if employees injure others or damages property while operating one of your dealership’s vehicles and text messaging. OSHA may fine your business if an employee is injured in this manner based on your dealership’s obligation to provide a workplace free of serious hazards. In order to mitigate potential liability from personal injury lawsuits and OSHA fines arising from distracted driving, your employee handbook should clearly communicate your dealership’s policies against distracted driving.

Sensitive Data: Mobile phones used in conjunction with business activities are covered under federal and state laws that address privacy and fraud prevention, like the Safeguards Rule of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Red Flags Rule. If your employees receive nonpublic personal information on mobile phones, your compliance processes must include how you safeguard this information and what steps your business takes to monitor employee use of this information. Laws such as the Safeguards Rule and the Red Flags Rule require businesses to conduct ongoing evaluations of processes and implement changes when they find shortcomings. Do not forget to include mobile phones in your review of your compliance efforts.

Personal vs. Private Use: There are several issues that involve employees’ use of mobile phones that blur personal and private use. For example, does your business provide mobile phones or do you allow employees to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)? If you provide mobile phones, are employees allowed to use them for personal reasons? Do you have ways to remotely lock and erase data contained on mobile phones should employees lose them? Are employees permitted to use their personal mobile phones to act on your company’s behalf, such as posting content to the dealership’s social media websites or answering leads? Do you allow employees to receive consumers’ nonpublic personal information on their personal mobile phones? Do employees use mobile phones to conduct business on behalf of your dealership while “off the clock?” Each of these questions present issues that your business should address in your employee handbook.

If you have any questions about your company’s cell phone policies, please call us at 631-224-7000.