California Businesses Must Assess Liability of New Mobile Phone Laws

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CalChamber Highlights Increased Legal Responsibility Beginning July 1

The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) today cautioned business owners statewide about the legal responsibility they can incur if employees use cell phones while driving for work. This increased awareness is due to the two new cell phone laws that take effect next week which ticket drivers talking on cell phones while driving without a hands-free device.

While these new laws impose fines on the driver of the car only (and not on businesses), "These new laws have brought to the forefront the impact on businesses that require their employees to use mobile phones while driving, such as salespeople," said Jessica Hawthorne, an employment attorney with CalBizCentral, a division of CalChamber. "If they require employees to use their mobile phones while driving, or if employers are not clear enough in their prohibition of the use of phones, they can be held liable for costs associated with car accidents, including workers' comp, while an employee is working."

The law does not say anything about employers having to provide hands-free devices to their employees; however, Hawthorne said she strongly recommends against requiring employees to be available by mobile phone while driving, as it exposes businesses to significant liability.

There are several things CalChamber advises employers to do in order to prepare for the new law, including:

Consult with legal counsel, particularly if you hire minors and/or have employees who regularly use their cell phones or are on the road a lot.
Adopt a clear policy that prohibits the use of any mobile phones while driving.
Train supervisors and managers to communicate to their staff about the company's policy prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving.
Discipline employees who violate the policy.

Specifically, beginning July 1, California law will require that drivers over 18 must use hands-free option to operate a mobile device. First-time offenders will be ticketed $20, and subsequent offenders will be fined $50. A separate piece of legislation also comes into effect that day that prohibits California drivers under the age of 18 from using any mobile device while driving, except in cases of emergency.

More information on the mobile phone hands-free law and many other workplace issues can be found at http://www.calbizcentral.com or by calling (800) 331-8877.

About CalChamber

The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) is the largest broad-based business advocate to government in California. Membership represents one-quarter of the private sector jobs in California and includes firms of all sizes and companies from every industry within the state. Leveraging its front-line knowledge of laws and regulations, it provides products and services to help businesses comply with both federal and state law. CalChamber, a not-for-profit organization with roots dating to 1890, promotes international trade and investment in order to stimulate California's economy and create jobs. Please visit http://www.calchamber.com for more information.

About CalBizCentral

CalBizCentral is a one-stop site for products that answer California and federal labor law and HR questions, alleviate confusion and allow businesses to focus their time and effort on their work. For more information or to review CalBizCentral's products, please visit http://www.calbizcentral.com.

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