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Should you charge OT for answering email after hours? A Chicago cop is suing over it


It's 7 p.m., you're sitting on the couch, and the light on your work-provided BlackBerry starts to blink. If you pick it up, can you start the clock on overtime?

A police officer in Chicago says yes and he's filed a lawsuit against the city that could result in public servants getting millions in back pay for answering the phone and reading emails after clocking out.

That's if Sgt. Jeffrey Allen wins his case, which a former mayor of Chicago has dismissed as "silliness." Richard M. Daley said he'd be paid millions of dollars if he charged for time answering phones and emails outside of the office.

Wouldn't we all.

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Certainly, being tethered to a work phone 24-hours a day can wear on an employee. But should we all be filing for OT each time we lift a finger after 5 p.m.?

Perhaps it's an issue of turning off the BlackBerry once you leave the office and returning to the mindset that emails can wait until the morning. There could be potential for abuse if employees start to leave mundane tasks until they're sitting comfortably at home.

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However, Allen's lawyer argues what some might say about other contemporary workplaces — the office nourishes a culture where staff feels like they must always be ready to work — for free.

For his part, Allen's argument seems simple — when I work, I should get paid.

(Photo courtesy Canadian Press)

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