Q: My employer furnishes all employees Blackberries. I don't need one because I have an IPhone that works well for me and is more advanced than the BlackBerry. Corporate, however, issued the policy that I can't access company data from my iPhone and so I have to carry both the BlackBerry and my iPhone.
How can I convince them that it makes more sense for them just to let me use my IPhone?
A: If you can address their concerns, you have a chance.
Employers take on a surprising amount of risk when they let employees access company material with their own iPhones and smartphones. What if you suddenly leave your employer while retaining sensitive company data or trade secrets on your iPhone? Who owns the company information on your iPhone? Do you, because it's on your phone or does the company own it?
Will you let your company's IT guru ensure your iPhone's security -- so no hacker can break into your potentially unsecured phone and gain access to confidential company information? Will you give your employer the right to manage and even wipe the company information you store on your IPhone -- or would you view that as a violation?
Alternatively, what if you suggest your company buy your iPhone from you for a nominal amount, giving you the right to use it for personal reasons and to buy it back for the same price if you leave your company?
Q: My employer terminated me Friday because I keep a gun in my car trunk. I have a legitimate reason for the gun because I go hiking or camping most weekends, and it saves time if I keep my gear in the trunk.
I tried to argue, but apparently the company can immediately terminate me because there's a policy against this -- I'd never seen it, but the human resources officer showed it to me and also said she had received a complaint from two employees who claimed they would quit if I stayed on the payroll.
Since I have a gun permit and the gun is not in the building, are my rights violated? Or do I have to take this?
A: Unless you work in one of the 13 states that allow employees to keep firearms in the vehicles while at work (Washington is not one of them), if you park your car in the employer's parking lot, your company's policy prevails.
Attorney Renea Saade said, "As long as the employer can establish that it has provided its employees notice of its policy prohibiting guns and/or other weapons on company property, the policy is enforceable and the employer may take whatever disciplinary step against the employee allowed under the policy up to and including immediate termination."
According to Saade, "An employee can only challenge the employer's decision if he or she can establish that the employer only enforced the policy against him/her as a pretext to discriminate against him or her based on a legally protected status such as the employee's race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability or another protected status."
Meanwhile, employers have reasons for strict no-gun policies. According to recent studies, 52 percent of working Americans "have witnessed, heard about or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace." According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 420 fatalities resulted from workplace shootings in 2009.
-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage.Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org