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October 03, 2019
Want to Get Sued for Millions? There’s an App for That! — The Legal Risks of Digital Workplace Apps

Over the past year, the popularity of digital workplace apps (that is, mobile applications used by companies to facilitate interactions with, and between, employees) has grown exponentially. These apps promise to streamline the entire world of employee relations into a single portal that’s easily accessible, paper-free, and easily managed.

Imagine a single app that could manage scheduling, timekeeping, shift swapping, task management, and new policy rollouts. Imagine that same app could provide links to training videos, push out company-wide communications, monitor productivity, and distribute satisfaction surveys. Now imagine if that app could also facilitate communications with remote or travelling workers, track expenses, administer benefits, manage accommodation requests, and even make work more fun by enabling employee social networks and “gamifying” performance goals.

Considering all that this new technology promises to deliver, digital workplace apps are quickly becoming the next big thing in employee management.

Unfortunately, they’re also the next big thing in employment class action litigation.

What’s the Risk? In 2017, only a few of my class action cases involved allegations relating to cellular phone use for work purposes—and none of them involved allegations relating to the use of workplace apps. Only two years later, all of my cases involve cell phone reimbursement allegations—and over half of them involve claims specifically related to workplace apps. Worse, I’m starting to see social media solicitations that, instead of targeting specific companies, are targeting users of particular apps. (“Are you a user of this workplace app? If so, we are investigating if your employer may owe you money as part of a class action!”)

Cell Phone Class Action Lawsuits Dramatically Increase Due To IRS Tax Changes in 2018 for Business Expenses

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which came into effect in January 2018, unreimbursed employee expenses were eliminated and the standard deduction substantially increased.

A cell phone provided by the business to an employee has to have proof that substantiates the business use of the cell phone. Employees using personal cell phones for work, must be reimbursed for the business expense incurred.

Consequently, this has seen a VERY SUBSTANTIAL increase in class action law suites involving cell phones relating to the use of work related apps. Interestingly, Evan R. Moses of Ogletree & Deakins, law firm specialising in labor and employment law, has seen an increase in the past 2 years and seems to coincide with IRS tax changes.

Want to Get Sued for Millions? There’s an App for That! — The Legal Risks of Digital Workplace Apps