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ABC and Writers Feud Over Whether After-Hours Email Checking is Overtime

Is Checking Your Work Email After-Hours Overtime?

The New York Times reports that ABC and its writers have had disputes over whether employees checking their company-issued BlackBerrys after work hours is considered overtime.

Although I'd laugh off checking one or two emails and simply reading them as obviously not being overtime, it's clear that we have a modern-technology-induced gray area here. Reading a couple of emails while outside work (and occasionally replying) is a way to check in, and as long as that's optional on the employee's part, then I don't consider that working (and hence, not overtime).

But, some people will get caught up or will be expected to answer the emails and work as a result of that and that's when you get into the aforementioned gray area.

What do you think?


Join The Conversation
PinkEsq PinkEsq 9 years
Legally, in most areas and fields, checking your email and working from home in any way can be considered overtime.
neko neko 9 years
If the e-mail is required to be checked during off-hours, it should be considered overtime. If you are simply checking it because you're bored or curious, then it shouldn't.
Purly Purly 9 years
When you get an email, you are expected to reply promptly. Waiting until the next day is often just considered rude. But all the after hours emailing I do doesn't count as work, probably because we all do so much surfing during the day anyways. I think when you're salaried the lines of on hours and off hours get blurred.
ninjastarlett ninjastarlett 9 years
You shouldn't be able to get overtime pay just for chhecking a couple of emails, but if it's a tone of emails and you rely on communication to do your job (such as maybe event planning?) then I can see that being a reasonable reason for overtime. Also, if it leads into an hour or two of actual work, then definitely. But not the email in and of itself.
macgirl macgirl 9 years
If it's not required then no overtime. Once you start replying after hours people expect it of you. If you want to get it off your plate before the next day, reply but save it as a draft then send them off just before you get to work (assuming it's on your BB or iPhone). I have made the mistake of being too accessible by email and people just expect it, even on the weekends.
pleasedeleteme pleasedeleteme 9 years
If it's required that you check in often enough that you stay on top of things 24/7 or it's required that you act upon what you read when you read it, there ought to be some sort of compensation. But, if it's not required, a better question is why on earth are you checking work email off hours? That office door closes behind me and that's it. Work and the office do not exist in my world until time to go in the next morning.
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
well said cubadog!
EvilDorkGirl EvilDorkGirl 9 years
If it's not something for your personal life, it counts as work. Period. It might only be 10 minutes, but it's still work. Glynislily -- I was a teacher, and yes, I worked outside of "work hours" all the time. However, I was getting off MUCH earlier than 6, and you have weeks of vacation that office workers don't get. So I don't think you're being very fair there. As far as I can tell, most people who are using Blackberries and other smartphones to check e-mail outside of work are salaried. Part of the salaried territory means working outside of set hours. But an employer should not take advantage of this, and employees need to be aware of what's expected of them in regards to working after hours. We Americans work too freaking much anyway. It's time to stop working at 9:00 at night and enjoy the company of your family & friends. We need it to stay mentally healthy.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I think it all depends on the discussion you have with your superior. Our factory's work week is Sunday - Thursday so I do answer e-mail when I am not in the office because it could stop production or hinder samples being sent on time. I would rather deal with it and go on with my day. To me it is the individuals own fault for not addressing the issue when they are handed a Blackberry. If you do not want to be bothered than say no to the Blackberry.
hyzenthlay20 hyzenthlay20 9 years
Being a teacher pretty much requires emailing outside of my contract hours. Parents expect it, administrators expect it, everyone expects it. One of the hardest things to do is a partial strike where you only work your contract hours. You pretty much lose all communication with parents because there isn't time the rest of the day to do all the other things that you need to do for your classroom. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but it does get old when a parent emails you at 9 or 10 pm asking about his or her child's grade and then gets angry with you for not emailing back immediately.
brown_eyed_grrl brown_eyed_grrl 9 years
I guess it's overtime if you're expected to be "on-call." I don't check my work e-mail outside of work, except to find out what time my yoga class will be held. I don't check it at all on vacations, either. I'm not a brain surgeon. No one is going to die. I also don't want to create the expectation that I check/respond to e-mails during my off time.
lawchick lawchick 9 years
YES, if your boss expects you to read and respond to the e-mails after-hours. And you do. I'm a lawyer and I certainly bill for e-mails read and sent after-hours.
gigill gigill 9 years
It depends on the job, the action required and what your employer says, so yeah, it's definitely a grey area that needs to be defined with your boss.
wickedcupofjoe wickedcupofjoe 9 years
I have a habit of getting sucked back in to work when I check. And since I'm off hours that others are working, they tend to email back and suck me in further -- where I am actually working. So, I think it's a grey area. If you are just checking, then no, no overtime. But if you are actually working and involved in something with another co-worker, then yes, that is actual work and you should get actual overtime. (But this should be stated upfront in the contract, ect.)
kiwitwist kiwitwist 9 years
I think it is overtime if it is an everyday thing, something you HAVE to do and there are a lot of them. yesterday I didn't come into work but constantly checked my e-mail to make sure there wasn't something major happening. I am not going to claim that time.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I chekc my e-mails all the time @ home. I just like to so I know what to expect for the next day. I don't charge it to OT BUT I would like to hahaha!
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 9 years
I check my work email after hours. I usually won't respond to them until the next day, though. If I do, it feels like I'm right back at work, and that would be overtime.
glynislily glynislily 9 years
Some people have to work at home after work. Teachers have been doing it for decades with minimal complaint. Now everyone else goes out and buys a BlackBerry and then complains because they aren't being paid for working at home. I say get over it and consider it homework. If people demand pay for using their BlackBerry, then it will become mandatory and no one will ever get a day off. If you can don't work at home, but if you have no choice remember your English teacher spending a whole weekend grading papers and never seeing an extra cent.
Gabriela14815884 Gabriela14815884 9 years
I know from personal experience how checking these emails can lead to a snowball effect in which you do actually end up doing work - emailing back and forth and what have you. However, I think if you can just checking the mail briefly then there is no reason to claim it as overtime.
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
if you are demanding me to respond to these emails and get into work mode (answer questions about proposals, go over data for analytics, etc,) then you are putting me back in the office and that's working. i refuse to take a company blackberry for that very purpose. when i leave work, i'm leaving work. it is a rare occasion that i will do anything work related outside of the office unless it's a special event.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
I definitely think it depends ... if you have to respond to the emails (and some do take quite a while, especially if you're creating a document to attach, etc.) and they require action that's work-related, then yes, I think it should be considered as overtime.
gonedelirious gonedelirious 9 years
that's why it's awesome that you can break each of your email accounts into separate icons. just don't pay attention to your work email if you aren't getting paid for it. i bought may own blackberry and had my work email on there for about 2 days. then it was like, why am i checking work email, it's saturday?
rickimc rickimc 9 years
I agree. Just checking email is not overtime, but if the emails require some action (other than a quick reply), then it should be overtime.
millarci millarci 9 years
I agree that it is a gray area. For me, it depends on what type of e-mail you're reading/replying to and how many you do. For example, if you're reading one or two just to be prepared for the next day, then I say no it's not overtime. But if you're answering e-mails, sending attachments, etc, then it could be considered overtime.
darkangel2305 darkangel2305 9 years
Like you said above, it is a gray area. I think employees should discuss this with their employer to know what is expected on them when not at the office.
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