Northern California Record

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Workplace apps are helpful for employers, but could put them at risk of class-action lawsuits, says attorney

Lawsuits

By Rich Peters | Oct 17, 2019

Iphone apps

SACRAMENTO – Companies using employee apps are running the risk of being blindsided by employer class-actions as trial lawyers are now zeroing in on a new type of litigation.

Employee apps, which can handle areas such as scheduling management, shift swapping, clocking in and out, task oversight and expense tracking for remote workers, are becoming a major technological advancement in employee management, attempting to lead the workforce into the future. But labor and employment attorney Evan Moses of the firm Ogletree Deakins firm in Los Angeles, says that trial attorneys are targeting users of these apps and focusing on them as an alternative to legal advertising to garner clients, which could potentially be dangerous for companies trying to increase efficiency through technology.

“Despite the legal risks, adoption of employee-facing apps is on the rise,” Moses wrote in JD Supra. “To balance the competing risks and rewards, employers may want to start developing compliance strategies that anticipate the categories of legal challenges. In this process, it often helps to work backwards from an organization’s business justification for using an app and then decide on compliance measures that address the anticipated use.”

Some experts even believe that these new workplace apps have actually encouraged employees to take more time for themselves with alerts that remind them to take their breaks and clock out at the end of the day, among other positives - for workers.

“Some employers, I don’t know how many small businesses, are using iPads and iPhones rather effectively to help remind employees of the need to take rest breaks and that sort of thing,” said Luke Wake, attorney with the NFIB Small Business Legal Center in Sacramento.

Wake also noted that these reminders could actually work in favor of the employer in the form of a paper trail proving that management is taking all of the appropriate steps for a healthy work environment.

“Having some sort of paper trail demonstrating that you’ve encouraged your employees to take their breaks is highly advisable,” said Wake. “Having some sort of paper trail in which your employee is acknowledging that he or she is receiving their meal and rest break, that’s also probably a prudent thing to do.”

Moses outlines the proper steps an employer might take as precaution to the new wave of lawsuits, acknowledging the value of these employee apps.

“The whole point of a mobile workplace app is to create an environment where engagement with your employees is quick, easy and informal,” he wrote. “But it’s these same characteristics that make it difficult to predict how and when your employees will engage with the app. Creating and documenting a compliance plan before you roll out an app will help you enjoy the benefits of this powerful new tool while minimizing potential legal risks.”

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