TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Firms Formulate Guidelines For Employee Cellphone Use

Firms Formulate Guidelines For Employee Cellphone Use

Monty Solomon (
Thu, 27 Jan 2005 09:30:22 -0500

By Joyce Pellino Crane, Globe Staff, 1/23/05

Somewhere near Winslow, Maine, is a scenic view of China Lake where
Monsanto Co. salesman Robert Pierpont regularly makes client calls
from his cellphone -- one of many locations at which he pauses along
his route.

"I know all the scenic, beautiful views," he said. He should. While
Pierpont traverses 3,500 miles a month across New England and eastern
New York selling animal health products to dairy farmers and
veterinarians, Monsanto says he cannot conduct business on his
cellphone unless his car is stopped.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is one of a small but growing number of
companies publishing guidelines for cellphone use inside the office
and the car, as some high-profile liability cases catch the eye of
corporate America.

"It's a hot liability topic," said Kathryn Lusby-Treber, executive
director of the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety in Vienna,
Va. "If [companies] don't have a policy in place, they should. The
company is certainly at risk. If they have an employee who's driving
for business and they're in a crash, the employer can be held
responsible for the crash."

An April 2004 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource
Management, in Alexandria, Va., showed that of 379 responding
companies, 40 percent already had a cellphone policy in place and
another 12 percent expected to develop a written policy within six
months. But even more companies may be reconsidering their positions
after reading about a lawsuit against an employer involving an
employee's cellphone call inside an automobile.

In October, the San Francisco law firm Cooley Godward settled a $30
million lawsuit in the death of 15- year-old Naeun Yoon, who was
struck and killed in 2000 on a busy highway outside Fairfax, Va.,
by one of its employees -- a lawyer accused of making a business
call on her cellphone while driving. After serving a year in jail
and surrendering her law license, Jane Wagner was ordered to pay
$2 million in damages to Yoon's family by a circuit court jury in
Loudoun County, Va. While the firm's insurance company paid $92,500,
according to its attorney, John McGavin of Fairfax, the firm was
not held liable.

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