Did You Say BYOD or BYOB?

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from Ohio called me the other day to revise his Company’s Employee Handbook, which had grown carelessly out of date due to a lack of professional maintenance over the past five years. True to form, the basic policies (e.g., PTO, sexual harassment, leaves of absence, safety, wage, and hour) were brought to administrative and legal standards in accordance with federal and state laws.

During the review, the business owner stated his company did not assign cell phones to any employees. Instead, the business owner simply stated that employees routinely use their personal cell phones to communicate with co-workers, supervisors, and business partners throughout the workday. Gripped with hope, albeit knowing the pre-ordained answer, I inquired if the company reimbursed the employees for any cell phone expenses related to company business operations. His reply was cogently eloquent.


I know. I know. Hope springs eternal. Thanks, Alexander Pope. I keep hoping.

From his candid response, I replied to the business owner that his company should adopt a BYOD or Bring Your Own Device Policy. Parenthetically, for this policy, you can leave your own beer at home; but if you bring your cell phone to work and you use it for business purposes, you’re going to get a reimbursement check; which you could then spend on beer if you want. Amstel Light, in case you were wondering…

BYOD policies have become commonplace in response to the increased cost of cell phones that companies once distributed to employees only to have them get lost, damaged, or not returned at the time of dismissal. That fiscal impact, in conjunction with the inordinately close relationship that people have with their own cell phones, has led an increased number of employers to stop purchasing and distributing company cell phones to their employees, instead allowing them to use their own devices for job-related purposes.

Contingent upon variable state laws, the general rule of thumb is that any employee’s use of a personal resource for any company-related purpose must be reimbursed to the employee. The most applicable example of this concept is an employee’s personal vehicle. If an employee uses his/her own personal vehicle for any reason stipulated by law (i.e., not commuting to/from work for a standard work shift) as being job-related, the company must reimburse that employee a fair sum, usually equal to the current IRS Mileage Rate. True to the fact: We have all accepted this event as a common business practice.

By way of parallel, I then asked the Ohio business owner if an employee’s personal cell phone is a personal resource. Followed by, if an employee uses a personal cell phone for any reason stipulated by law as being job-related, shouldn’t that usage be reimbursed? Again, his reply was cogently eloquent.


“Usually,” state laws “recommend” a “reasonable” stipend for employees’ use of their personal cell phones for company business operations. In many cases, this stipend is approximately $25-$35 per month. While employers could theoretically review each individual employee’s personal cell phone statement each month and calculate the precise pro-rated portion of the employee’s job-related usage to his/her overall cell phone expense, I don’t know any green industry company that conducts such a practice to track this expense for every impacted employee. Every month.

The standard process then is to develop a company-wide BYOD Policy, include it in your company Employee Handbook, and then include a $25-$35 non-taxable reimbursement stipend to all affected employees’ paychecks every pay period.

Remember: You can Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work; just never Bring Your Own Beer (BYOB) to work!

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.