Employment Law News: Workplace Apps
By Rudman Winchell Attorney John Hamer
Chances are you have heard us talk about various concerns raised by employee use of cell phones at work. Initially, these concerns primarily focused on things like interference with work time. Then, as cell phones evolved into smart phones, other concerns were raised such as taking inappropriate pictures with cell phone cameras. Now, we have moved to a whole new level – the app. The apps your employees may be running might surprise you.
For example, the U.S. Department of Labor has a free app available to anyone for downloading called DOL Timesheet. The app is designed to assist employees in keeping track of hours worked and calculating overtime. The app is simple to use. First, it allows the user to create a file with the name of an employer, rate of pay, and whatever day starts their workweek. A user may create as many employer timesheets as needed. A simple tap starts the clock. A second tap offers the option of stopping work for the day or starting a break. If a “start break” is selected, the user may designate it as a meal break or add a custom description. There is also a pop-up with information about meals and breaks with a telephone link to the Wage and Hour Division if the user has questions. When “stop work” is selected, the app adds up the time worked and calculates the amount of gross pay- including overtime. It can organize the information by day, week, or month, and can email the information to any email address you wish.
The app also contains a glossary of terms with links to DOL web-pages and a page of DOL contact information, including email and telephone links. Of course, the app is just a tool and only as good as the information it is given. It relies on the employee to remember to start and stop the timer, to know whether the employee is exempt, and to understand when “work” begins and ends under the Portal to Portal Act. Information generated by this app could be a very significant benefit to the employee in the event a failure to pay claim is made, as it will create a threshold of “evidence” that will have to be refuted by the employer’s own timekeeping records.
DOL also offers a free OSHA Heat Safety Tool. Either the user manually enters the temperature and humidity or the app will download the information for the user’s location automatically and then it calculates the heat index. If it is warm enough for a heat index, the app will display one of four risk levels- lower, medium, high, or very high to extreme. “Precautions” are then provided for each level with recommendations about water intake, emergency preparedness, work and rest, and training. The app also contains a reference guide about signs and symptoms and first aid as well as OSHA telephone and internet links.
Other apps offered by the federal government include– and the list is growing– EPA AIRNow (provides real-time air quality information), EPA UV Index, DOL Labor Stats (provides up-to-date DOL statistics and news releases), and PTSD Coach (provides information about PTSD, including a self-assessment and tools to help users manage the stresses of daily life).
Finally, an app called Charge! allows users to: “help secret agents fight evil henchmen, while applying correct acquisition and contracting rules as defined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Your contracting skills will be put to the test as you decide what equipment will aid your secret agents in the ultimate battle with a nefarious evil genius who is out to take over the world. Will your quick thinking and proper application of the FAR be enough to save us?” Move over Angry Birds.