I recently arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport at 3 a.m., exhausted from a long trip and hoping I would have no problems connecting with my chauffeur for a ride to Princeton, N.J. I was thrilled to spot my last name on an iPad from what seemed like a mile away. My name was lit up crisp and bold. It was a far cry from my days as a chauffeur when a sharpie and a blank white paper were standard tools. Everyone did it the same way so I didn’t look out of place.
Today, some are still using that method while others are using pre-printed signs made by office staff. Then there are those with the classy, fancy, high-tech tablets. They are a vast improvement. To be honest, sometimes I had an airport pickup dropped on me at the last minute and had to do the best I could with an ink pen and any scrap of paper I could find in the car. Tablets can be used over and over again. That’s the good part.
The bad part is the fact that social media posts seem to indicate there are inconsistencies in the way tablets are issued to chauffeurs. Posts on social media show that some chauffeurs are using their own tablets and consider it an investment in the tools they personally provide for excellent service. Some operators don’t have one for every chauffeur so sometimes they have to revert back to the printed sign or the sharpie method. This is bad for consistency. I would expect every time I land in Philly and use the same operator there will be a tablet sign visible to me from far away. More bad news on social media is some operators are requiring chauffeurs to leave a deposit for these. While collecting the deposit might be some type of mental game, if an operator keeps the deposit there could be big trouble down the road.
That’s where the ugly part comes in. Since federal law specifically prohibits charging an employee for any type of damage, loss or breakage of a work tool, this is a clear violation of FLSA laws. There may be an out to this. If an employer can demonstrate a chauffeur was grossly negligent resulting in the loss or damage to a tablet, you might have a leg to stand on. If the chauffeur left the tablet on the roof of the car and drove off, it could be considered grossly negligent.However, you must prove this in court if the employee initiates an action against you with the Labor Board. Considering the hourly rate of attorneys is $300 to $500 per hour, it’s probably best to just buy a new tablet and EAT IT. That’s the ugly part about operating a business.
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