Editorials

Can An Employer Require You to Use Your Own Device?

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. There are a few reasons for this. 

First, more people are working remotely in which case, BYOD policies tend just to make sense. The second reason is that employees prefer this in some cases because they’re comfortable with their device so it makes work easier for them. 

The third reason is that for employers, it can save them money. 

There are a lot of considerations on the employer’s end. For example, to ensure a BYOD policy is a secure option, employers may have to automate software patches and other security protocols.

Some employers will utilize device management solutions. This could mean that you, as an employee, feel like there are privacy issues. There are even instances where an employer might be able to remotely wipe a device if it’s lost or stolen, even if it’s your personal phone, tablet or laptop. 

All of this brings about the question of whether or not an employer can require you to use your own device. 

We go into this below with a specific focus on possible legal issues stemming from a BYOD policy

Liability

Employers will need to consider how a BYOD policy could impact issues of liability. 

For example, there are times when an employer is liable for their employee’s actions if that employee is acting within the scope of their employment. How does this liability extend to devices?

If your employees are using their personal devices to engage in bullying or sexual harassment, or they’re posting inappropriate remarks even on a private social media page, an employer can be held liable. The plaintiff in this situation would have to show the device or equipment was at any point used to do work. 

This situation doesn’t necessarily speak to whether or not an employer can require you to use your own device, but it does provide insight into why it’s best that an employer not try to. Employers need to be cautious and discerning with their BYOD policies, as well as highly specific. This will protect them, and it will also provide you with guidance if you decide to use your mobile device or laptop to do work. 

Data Breaches

If your employer lets you download data or personally identifiable information onto your device for work, then it’s the company rather than you that’s responsible for the handling of that information. 

If you work in finance, healthcare or insurance, your employer shouldn’t allow for a BYOD policy in most cases since federal regulations are guiding the protection and security of that data. 

You may not use the highest levels of security on your mobile devices or laptop, which is relatively common. This represents a big point of vulnerability for your employer and a reason to decide against a BYOD policy.

Privacy Issues

The biggest reason that an employer typically can’t mandate a BYOD policy is because of employee privacy issues.

The hard part about this is that it’s very much still evolving and changing, so it’s hard to say what the future of BYOD policies and implementation will look like. 

As it stands now, legally, an employer can typically allow you to use your own device but not force you to. 

There are so many gray areas as far as whom the information on a personal device belongs to and who’s responsible for compliance with laws and regulations. 

Some companies are utilizing Mobile Device Management software to deal with the downsides of BYOD as they stand now. Mobile Device Management or MDM software lets company’s manage information that workers store on their phones. As was touched on above, they can use this technology to wipe the device if they need to. The issue is that sometimes employees’ personal information including their photos and emails, is also wiped clean. 

MDM can let a device be wiped remotely without even notifying an employee, so this is a substantial legal hazard on an employer’s side. It’s also a reason to think twice about participating in a BYOD policy if you’re an employee. 

If your employer has a BYOD policy, it should be written, and you should have to sign off on it before agreeing to anything. If that’s not happening, you need to speak to your employer and find out what their policies are before you use your device for anything related to work. 

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