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California Court Delivers Major BYOD Ruling

August 19, 2014 by

It's not often that the court system decides to take a stand on BYOD business communications solutions. Last week, though, the California Court of Appeal delivered a ruling that is poised to have a major impact on BYOD strategies throughout the state.

CIO reported that the case, Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, concerned the issue of whether employers need to reimburse their employees when the latter use their mobile devices for work. The court decided that the answer to this question was an unqualified "yes."

"We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them," the ruling stated. "Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills."

Speaking to the news source, Young Park, principal consultant at DataHive Consulting, explained the case is now effectively decided - there's no court left to appeal to. The ruling will take effect next month.

BYOD Impact

This ruling will likely have a major impact on how companies approach BYOD going forward. At the very least, organizations will need to review and revise their policies in this area. The fact that BYOD may now cost businesses a significant amount of money will undoubtedly cause many affected organizations to question the value of this approach. But the new expenses should still not outweigh the benefits of BYOD.

Ambiguity Remains

Further complicating the issue is the fact the ruling leaves a tremendous amount of ambiguity. Most notably, the decision only concerns the cost of telephone calls in BYOD environments - data transactions and app use remained uncommented upon by the California courts. The news source noted that these two areas account for most of the costs involving BYOD, not actual phone calls themselves.

If later rulings clarify that data transactions and apps are not affected by this decision, then the impact on BYOD's viability may actually prove relatively minor.

In any case, there is no question that California-based companies need to take immediate steps to modify their approach to BYOD in light of this ruling. To ensure compliance and maximize value, it will be wise - or even essential - for these firms to partner with reputable collaboration solutions service providers.

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