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I recently had a change in job responsibilities which requires me to be on call for issues. When this occurred, I requested a work cell phone to keep on my person and leave the ringer on, so I would be accessible at all times. Additionally, my company has restrictive electronic device policies and internet filters for accessing email and networks, which I do not want on my personal device. Simply put, I refuse to use my own phone for work.

I just found out my manager refused my request for a work cell phone, citing that many team leads (I am not a team lead) do not even have cell phones. I fail to see how that's relevant, as my job tasks require me to have phone access, regardless of title. Not to mention, anyone who's required to be on call should, in my opinion, have a company phone. My supervisor is supporting me, understanding my requirements, but company policy doesn't allow company phones without manager approval.

How do I handle this?

Additional Clarification:

Many leads are expected to be on call and use their own devices when it comes to remote troubleshooting. Why don't they have a company phone? Bad precedence and no one to stand up to it, I guess.

Receiving a call will almost certainly require me to remote in to perform an action, which puts me under the company policies.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Feb 25 at 15:21
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    Would you be required to use your phone to remote in when called? To me that makes a difference, if you only need to pick up the phone it's mostly a matter of who you're willing to give your personal phone number (something I personally solved with a dual-sim phone).
    – AVee
    Feb 25 at 16:26
  • Are your supervisor and your manager different people?
    – stannius
    Feb 25 at 16:53

13 Answers 13

66

How do I handle this?

First, do not handle this without a paper trail. Everything you do, you do it in email. If someone calls you or tells you something in person, write them an email and confirm.

As long as you do not have a phone, refuse to be on call. Tell whoever plans the shifts that you have not received a company phone yet and that you will be happy to take a shift whenever you get it. Keep them CCed on all communication regarding the phone.

Then let them duke it out.

In the end, not wanting to use your own phone it seems is not a protected class and if you happen to be in an at-will state, you are out of luck. In most other countries you would be covered by worker protection laws and requesting you to use your own phone would even be illegal based on data protection laws. But you are in the USA. So you have no protection. Your last chance to keep your job might be to purchase the cheapest phone you can find and pretend it's you work phone. That's 100$ on you, but maybe worth keeping your job if all the people at the company are as unreasonable as your manager.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 27 at 10:41
41

How do I handle this?

Start looking for a new company to work for.

If a company cannot provide the proper equipment for employees to do their job ( or in this case refuses to provide ) then this is not a company worth working for.

While you can try to fight this, it is very difficult for an individual to change company policy or make exceptions. In the meantime, especially if they know you have a cell phone, they will try to pressure you to either provide the number or ask you to install whatever software they require. Since your supervisor is on your side, it will buy you time to politely decline their requests while you search for a new job. Just be prepared to be let go at any point over this issue.

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    Suggesting a new job at every inconvenience is not realistic advice. The managers stance seems to be that his personal phone is good enough to double as a work phone. OP's goal should be to make it clear that their personal phone is not going to be usable for work purposes. If they can't understand that, then I'd let them sit with the consequences of that decision. Nobody on call. Feb 24 at 6:31
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    Maybe you can answer something like this: "I can't use my personal phone for remote work since I need to share access with my wife/husband/child/relative. If you need me to log in remotely, please provide a company phone for which I restrict the access according to company guidelines"
    – citronas
    Feb 24 at 10:54
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    @citronas This here is the answer. Why it is bad for the company not to issue a phone. Get it in writing if they force you to use a phone that is not secure.
    – paulj
    Feb 24 at 16:23
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    @TheEvilMetal The problem with using your own phone (or laptop) is two fold. They can insist you put software on it that lets them monitor your activity or them control your system settings (never let them do this) or when you leave you get a lot of hassle about wiping your system clean or some such thing - I've heard of companies demanding private laptops are handed in to them for cleaning, which I would never allow. Never let your employer access your provate IT kit - it's a disaster in the making. Feb 25 at 14:42
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    @TheEvilMetal This is far beyond an "inconvenience". Employees have the upper hand in the market, at least in skilled trades. Ruthlessly punishing employers that abuse their employees is to the employee's long-term advantage. Feb 25 at 17:45
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I just found out my manager refused my request for a work cell phone, citing that many team leads (I am not a team lead) do not even have cell phones. I fail to see how that's relevant, [...]

This is relevant to your manager, because, in their mind, the work cell phone is not just a work device, but a status symbol. Yes, it's stupid, but there are people who think that way.

My supervisor is supporting me, understanding my requirements, but company policy doesn't allow company phones without manager approval.

Which means that your company rather wastes money on people fighting over policies than on providing people with the tools they need for their job. That's stupid as well, because the latter would be cheaper.

How do I handle this?

If $(your salary minus the cost for a cheap mobile phone plan) is still enough compensation for you, buy a cheap second phone and use it solely for work. Then stop worrying about this issue.

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    Upvoted for that last paragraph. Actually that should be high in the list: is it financially worthwhile to suck it up buy a cheap phone and continue. If the job is otherwise to your liking - and it's realistic to assume folks generally want to stay on their current job especially given you're here trying to find a way to make it work - then it's just one of those things. Every job has its downsides and are they too much or not? Feb 25 at 1:53
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I totally understand your viewpoint of not putting your personal device into the mix. I worked for a company whereas if I wanted to install Microsoft Outlook on my phone, I'd have to grant the application permission to wipe my phone if someone at the company felt it was necessary. Huge red flag!

If the company has suddenly decided that you need to be on call, and there was no such discussion when you took the job, this is another red flag. As others have mentioned, if you're in a state with at-will employment you ultimately don't have any choice but to put up with it, or leave. My sentiment is that if you let them bully you once, they'll do it twice, and then three times.

I'd bet money that your manager will try to justify not getting you a phone by saying that they don't intend to call you enough to make buying a separate device a reasonable thing to do. It seems you'd have a lot of difficulty getting them to clarify the actual expectation.

This isn't looking good for your future at this business. Best of luck.

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  • Clarity of job duties certainly isn't common practice at my job. I knew on-call would come with my line of work, though it was never expressly stated in my contract.
    – Groger
    Feb 23 at 18:42
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I suppose that for company phone you mean both a company SIM and the actual hardware. Nowadays a cheap smartphone costs under 100 euro or 100 dollars, so if it's for the hardware the company looks a bit stingy. For the SIM and the number, are they supposing that you will be called on a private and not company number?

In the meantime, while looking for anoter less Scrooge McDuck operated workplace, you could buy a cheap phone and a prepaid SIM without a monthly plan, and have a burner work phone.

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    Yes, they would provide both.
    – Groger
    Feb 23 at 21:53
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    The cost of a smartphone does not seem very important, as carrier service costs much more in the long run (although this may depend on the location).
    – akhmeteli
    Feb 24 at 5:16
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    @akhmeteli: it depends where. There are some prepaid systems in Europe where an empty credit will still allow you to be called, usually for a year (but obviously not to call). This means that it can be a 20€ phone + 10€ SIM of investment.
    – WoJ
    Feb 24 at 15:33
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    @WoJ: The prepaid SIM cards with zero running cost do usually just include calls and SMS, but no internet. If I understand OP correctly, they would need to connect to the company network on the go. So a usable mobile internet connection might be a requirement and this probably does incur a running cost.
    – Emil
    Feb 25 at 7:10
  • @Emil: ah yes, the clarification in OP's post indeed states that the phone is also needed for remote troubleshooting. Putting aside the fact that this must be a terrible experience to do that without a laptop, yes indeed this requires access to Internet (which could be WiFi, though). Anyway this is crazy - and completely inconceivable in France where I live.
    – WoJ
    Feb 25 at 15:48
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You go back to your Manager and point out that what have other Team Leads is irrelevant, you have been asked to undertake a role that requires you to be on call. If they still refuse, and you are prepared for the consequences, then you escalate this to their Manager.

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Talk about the information security dangers involved about using your personal phone.

If it were me, the first thing I'd mention is that my phone is rooted and is also my testbed for various types of hobbyist software development, including software that requires root access. That would panic any organisation with half a braincell into not letting me use my personal phone for this kind of stuff.

My situation as shown above is very specific, however yours doesn't have to be. You could simply mention that, as your employer, they have no idea if you have, say, an automatic call recorder or not (check whether you are in a two-party consent jurisdiction before mentioning this; these are illegal if you are). They also have no ability to effectively check if your phone is rooted or not. (plenty of legit reasons for doing so, and no, most MDM stuff doesn't work in detecting it so long as you spend 5 minutes to Google root-hiding Magisk modules). Not to mention, software you install can easily mess with any protection measures they put in place. Their proxy, email protection, etc, mean nothing against root access, direct access to application database files and a copy of Frida.

If your unrestricted phone can access their data, they can be in for a world of regulatory and contractual hurt, depending on the kind of data your company processes and is processed by your phone. Many information security laws and standards do not mess around.

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    While this answer makes a lot of sense (+1), I highly doubt that a company that does not provide a phone for their on-call staff cares about such details as a world of contractual or regulatory hurt.
    – WoJ
    Feb 24 at 15:35
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    I was going to say this, but firmer. "My personal phone is used for...." and add any pretext or use case, that would make anyone at a company throw their hands up in horror. "For new virus detection, a hobby of mine". "For rooted software, which would be dangerous to the company if used as a work machine because it has no security". "Runs Android 2.3 and has 512 MB Ram, which is mostly full from the dialler". "Has 100 minutes a month airtime, then stops working unless paid."
    – Stilez
    Feb 25 at 1:46
  • only relevant if actually true, and even then, this fits in "personal reasons" that you don't actually need to get into.
    – njzk2
    Feb 26 at 23:22
  • "OK, but just so you know, I have my entire game library on here, my phone gets about 45 minutes of battery life on a good day, I have T Mobile which gets 1 bar of coverage only on the roof of the building, I am a Linux kernel dev who has just volunteered to test experimental driver modules on my phone, my phone has 1 MB of storage (totally full right now, sorry), and my 3 year old daughter takes it on weeknights and has root access. If you call after 8 PM she might accidentally answer, in which case feel free to ask her your technical support question, never to early to start training."
    – jrh
    Feb 26 at 23:23
  • Also my previous comment was making a joke, don't say that. Most of the time companies think they are being "reasonable" and asking for something "reasonable", they aren't thinking "I would like some malicious compliance today, if I get my way according to a malicious interpretation I will be happy.". Probably leveling with them and saying "I am afraid of installing these [powerful spyware] apps on my phone because if it glitched out and deleted my personal photos / emergency contacts it would be very bad for me". Might even make the manager say "huh... that is kinda scary".
    – jrh
    Feb 26 at 23:34
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As the company for some mysterious reason thinks you must use your own device for work purposes (may sound normal for an early three person startup), simply buy the second phone. Cheap phone may cost I think $100 - $200 at most and may not justify raising a conflict inside the company. Leave all potential legal issues for the company to resolve: "I have been asked to use my own phone at work, by my manager". It is obvious that nobody cares.

You also need a second SIM contract, ideally easy to break prepaid.

Never put any private data into device you use for work, never register there with personal accounts, do not save personal phone numbers, do not use for any single purpose other than work. Set the ringer on ("this is my work"), while set the ringer of your real private phone to silent.

Not all work related expenses are automatically covered by the company. Most of the companies would not pay for your travel home to work, for your eyeglasses you only need at work, for your watch and your tie and the like. Certain things like travel to work expenses may actually cost enough to think about another job.

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Companies should never mix private and working life of their employees. The advice given by @Sf02, Start looking for a new company to work for, is a good one, but often difficult to put in practice.

For the moment do not allow your company to install anything on your phone. That would mean giving them access to your private life even when you are not on call. If the company insists, as a fall-back solution, buy a cheap new phone and the cheapest contract you can find and if you often lose connectivity that's their problem. If you change work it is way easier to reset completely the phone than to spend a lot of time trying to uninstall their software piece by piece without screwing your private phone.

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Practical advice:

  1. Buy yourself cheap, unlocked phone (maybe even used one from ebay).
  2. Get yourself new cheap phone plan, like unlimited talk and text from Hello Mobile for $5/month. If you are only going to use phone where there is wifi connection or if you can hotspot from your current personal phone you can even use app TextNow to have a phone number completely for free.
  3. Start looking for a new job.

"Give up a fight to win a war" type of thing.

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    If it's just needed to be called in cases of emergency, it doesn't even need to be a smart phone. Feb 25 at 1:44
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I feel the correct answer is you provide them with a phone number.

There is no cause to install company software on the phone, nor does it handle company data. All of the company data can go to the company-issue laptop. The phone number lets them notify you there's something to pick up. Unless you would otherwise not have a cell phone, not providing a phone number is ridiculous.

I remember fighting a big internal battle at my own company about the personal phone policy; saying that the phones are not employee phones, the company has no right to wipe them, and should not have the trigger to do so; and furthermore the company ought to not demand any corporate software be installed on phones. After winning that fight, I reviewed what software was really required and what could be done elsehow and ended up not needing to get a corporate cell phone.

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Others already gave the right answer (push back while looking for another job).

I want to add some technical details about phones and restrictions since I have experience in that area:

Depending on your device and the MDM (Mobile Device Management, also sometimes called EMM or Enterprise Mobility Management) system the company uses, it is commonly possible to have a device in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) mode. This essentially walls off a part of your private phone for company use, and within the company part, their restrictions and rules apply, and they can remote-wipe that part, but your private zone is unaffected by any of that and the company IT has access only to the corporate part and some shared information (such as the OS version to check if you're up to date regarding security updates).

So just from a technical perspective, if the right technology is in place and is being used in the right way, there is no technical reason to not use your own phone and you can do so safely.

Nevertheless, I agree with the other answers that if your company wants you on call and you request a work phone for that purpose, they should provide one. That they don't is Dilbert-level office politics.

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  • as long as you trust that the MDM works as expected
    – njzk2
    Feb 26 at 23:24
  • @njzk2 no, you don't have to trust. When you install the MDM on your device, you have to authorize it. Depending on the OS (e.g. Samsung Knox and equivalents) you might have to trust the manufacturers sandbox implementation, though.
    – Tom
    Feb 27 at 14:29
  • what happens when you don't have a compatible device, though?
    – njzk2
    Feb 27 at 17:53
  • @njzk2 all the major MDM/EMM systems I know support all the major mobile operating systems. You'd have to dig up something fairly exotic or an abomination like windows mobile to have an incompatible device.
    – Tom
    Feb 27 at 17:55
-5

My answer might not be great but it worked for me so this is a personal experience:

Get a cheap phone with a very bad battery, it'll switch off frequently and all you have to do is explain the issue.. you are unavailable because you can't afford a new phone. They will have to sort it out.. no way they can pass the problem to you.

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    More likely their demand will just switch from "You must provide a personal phone for on call duties" to "You must provide a personal phone for on call duties and keep it charged and functioning while on call". Your new choices will be buy a replacement phone/battery, or keep it connected to charger or an external power pack if away from home. Feb 26 at 16:05
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    that's basically passive-agressive sabotaging, not really helpful. Once you agree to be on-call, regardless of the device you use to do so, you're responsible for being reachable (by mere definition of being on-call).
    – njzk2
    Feb 26 at 23:25

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