Cell Phone Needed For Emergency

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about cell phone in case there’s an emergency because of disabled child:

I have a son with disabilities and I have my cell phone as an emergency contact number. My employer is making a rule that there can be no cell phones on the premesis. When I have tried to get an emergency call on my work phone my son’s school couldn’t get through, so that is why I have my cell phone as the emergency number. My boss also told me that she wouldn’t tell me if there was an emergency if I was away on work duties until I returned, for safety reasons. Is this legal, or are there some privacy laws or employee laws that are being broken?

Signed, Need A Phone

Dear Need A Phone:

This certainly could be a matter for concern for you. Angela Setter, an HR specialist commented: This is a complex situation for several reasons. The employer has a right to implement workplace practices such as no cell phones, as well as safety policies. And, there are no regulations that require accommodation for phone access for family emergencies.The boss indicated that due to the nature of the employee’s job, the employee would be notified as soon as possible in the event of an emergency. This probably could be reviewed by HR to ensure it is in fact, the best way to handle any emergency.So, this employee could contact her company’s HR section to review the situation. As far as federal laws goes, employers usually don’t make accommodations for family members but this might qualify as a FMLA occurrence. She could contact an attorney or her state’s department of labor, to see if there are any state protections.

I will add a note to Angela’s: First, let your son’s school, or wherever he is where there might be an emergency, know about the situation. At least that way they will know to keep trying if they don’t get through in an emergency. Perhaps there is another person who could be an emergency contact. They could then continue to call your workplace until they could get through. Prepare a list of the times you have needed to be contacted and what happened each time.

Maybe you can show that you do not receive many such calls, but the ones you have received have been delayed even though they were truly emergencies. Employers have had so many problems with cell phones, that most are eliminating their use in the office. They don’t want the ring tones, or having people talk on them. And, it would be difficult to make an exception for you, because everyone who has a family might have an emergency at some time. Someone with elderly parents might have a greater need than you would even.

The best solution is for your workplace to take phone calls, call the employee to the office and give them the emergency message right away. If your boss has a boss you can bet that is the way it is expected to happen. You may find that you boss can’t make the decision to not notify you, because she would be violating company policy. If your boss is the owner of the business, she can decide her own rules and there likely won’t be anything to do except to ask her to let you make your case for at least being notified right away when the company receives an emergency call. Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.