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Texting at work

Dear Mary,

Lately, I’ve been cracking down on employees goofing off at work. Is it OK for me to ban text messaging at the office? What if I use a cellphone jammer?

I understand your concern that text messaging may be harming the productivity of your company’s employees. Still, have you considered the repercussions of a texting ban?

Nowadays, people rely very heavily on their cellphones as a primary means of communication. Many people also depend on cellphones for text “check-ins” from their families. These morale boosters can affect your productivity in a good way.

If it’s one particular staff person who is texting half the day, you could talk to them about their responsibilities to the company and remind them how important it is that they focus on their work. Some people don’t even realize how much time they spend on their cellphones. If it’s just one person doing the texting, it might not be fair to punish everyone.

On the other hand, if it’s a bigger problem or you own a larger company, consider implementing a texting policy. What that policy looks like will depend on your workplace, how many employees you have, what your industry is, and how productive your employees are.

If your employees often have to meet with clients, then you should probably discourage them from texting during client meetings, even if the texting is for business purposes. Similarly, if your employees are required to drive as part of their job, then obviously you should prohibit them from using their phones while driving.

A policy is only as good as your willingness to enforce it. There’s no point in drafting a policy and then looking the other way when your employees break the rules.

If you ban text messaging or otherwise limit personal phone usage, you need to be clear on how to handle an emergency in which your employees are able to reach family members by text message. In most cases I would not recommend a companywide ban against texting, since there are so many justifiable reasons for needing to text, and because it’s convenient and discreet. Consider your employees’ needs as well as the productivity of your business.

Under no circumstances should you use a cellphone jammer, which is a device that blocks cellphone data and voice service. Interfering with radio communications with a jammer is against the law in the United States, as well as many other countries. Cellphone jamming is considered property theft and is a safety hazard.

Mary Luros is a business law attorney with Hudson & Luros, LLP, in Napa, and can be reached at or 418-5118. The information provided here is not intended as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship with the author. The author makes no representations as to the reliability or accuracy of the above information. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need disclaimers — or attorneys.

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