If your employees are normal people – and we hope they are – they probably send and receive a lot of text messages. After all, Americans now send more texts than they make cell phone calls.
What’s the best way to handle texting by employees? There are three main issues to address:
Somebody sending or reading a text is somebody who’s not working, at least at that moment. This may matter more to some employers than others.
If in your business productivity can take a serious hit from people texting, you may want to create a policy banning texting during work hours. (You can, of course, make exceptions for breaks and meals.)
Ditto for activities where texting can put health or safety at risk, like driving, operating heavy machinery, or handling hazardous materials.
Whether you permit texting or not, your policy should prohibit the sending, receiving, or displaying of harassing, offensive, pornographic or disruptive messages or images on personal mobile devices.
One big reason: sexually explicit messages or images, known as “sexts.” Like any other kind of sexually oriented conduct, “sexting” at work can trigger a sexual harassment claim.
It’s not uncommon these days for employees to communicate with supervisors by text. This is OK for some messages, but not for others.
Your policy should require that any communication about attendance, pay or hours worked, or medical or disability leaves, be via letter or e-mail, not text. You want to have copies for your files, and you won’t if a text is all there is.
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