Can a Company Require You to Use Your Personal Phone for Company Business?

by Fraser Sherman; Updated September 26, 2017

In many businesses, cellphones aren't convenient, they're essential. Some companies want salespeople available to the customers 24/7, while other employees must be on-call for emergencies. Now that cellphones make it possible to reach you anywhere, being out of touch can seem like a cardinal sin. If your employer wants you to use your own phone for business, refusing may not be an option if you want to keep your job.


If your employer believes a cellphone is necessary for your job, that doesn't mean he has to provide you one. Employers can require you use your own phone and they don't have to reimburse you, "The Boston Globe" states; there are no federal laws against this, and only California requires companies to pay employees for their expenses. Your choices in the rest of the country are to use your own phone, try to talk your boss out of it or quit.


If your company requires you to use a cell and cellphone use is normal in your field, you may be able to claim a miscellaneous deduction on your income taxes. The IRS allows you to claim depreciation on your phone if it's a requirement for your job and cellphone use is normal practice in your field. You can only claim miscellaneous deductions if you itemize taxes, and if your total miscellaneous deductions add up to more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.


If the company provides you with a cellphone, then requires you to pay part of the bill, that raises a different set of legal questions. In Michigan, for example, it's illegal for businesses to charge employees for the use of company equipment, so requiring you to use and pay for a business phone isn't acceptable. Requiring you to pay for personal calls on the company phone is legal, however.


For many companies, the concern isn't making you use a phone, but restricting your use. Using your cellphone while driving violates the law in some states; even if it doesn't, anyone injured in an accident could sue the company if it was a business call. "Inc." magazine recommends companies draw up policies, not only on cell use while driving, but on sending inappropriate texts and the use of cellphone cameras to invade people's privacy while at work.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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