HR Hotline: Can I Forbid Employees from Playing Pokémon Go at Work?
Q: I almost got run over this morning by an employee walking through our production area intent on hunting down the next Pokémon. I don’t want to ban cell phones in the plant; they are a key communication tool we rely on. And I do allow occasional personal use during the day as long as it doesn’t compromise production or safety. Can I selectively forbid this one game?
A: “Pokémon Go player” status is not a protected class, at least not yet.
Although some workplace commentators have suggested this latest craze might be a valuable team building activity, others have nixed the idea.
If employees are walking around the neighborhood scavenging for Pokémon creatures on their own cell phones during unpaid breaks, it may be healthful exercise, benefiting both worker and company.
If they are doing it on the clock, however, navigating blindly through your warehouse, maze of machinery, or office space (or your customers’), possibly invading others’ privacy or corporate security, think productivity, safety, malware, privacy, and company liability!
Worse yet, of course, is an employee playing the game behind the wheel of a company vehicle.
Whether an employee is playing the game on his or her own phone or a company-issued phone, you can say no, not on my dime, by updating your policy on prohibited on-the-job conduct to include playing Pokémon Go or any other computer games.
And if you have properly posted a notice about electronic monitoring in the workplace, you may rely on an old Russian proverb, voiced effectively by Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify,” by checking on employee online activity.
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