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Require hands-free phone usage in company vehicles

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in Human Resources

Issue: More states are placing restrictions on when drivers (and which drivers) can use wireless devices while driving.

Risk: Your organization may be liable when distracted employees on cell phones cause auto accidents.

Action: Put safety before productivity, and issue a policy on employee cell-phone use.

If you don't yet have a policy on employees' use of cell phones while driving on company business, now's the time to think about one. More states, counties and cities are passing or debating legislation that limits cell phone use by drivers.

New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., require hands-free phone usage in vehicles, as do some cities, including Chicago. This year, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee banned cell phone use by young drivers. (A similar bill is awaiting the governor's signature in Illinois.) And 37 states debated new laws recently that restrict drivers' use of cell phones.

Advice: You're in a far better legal position if you have a strong policy that prohibits employees from using their cell phones for business while driving. At the very least, require hands-free devices.

Failing to address the issue can be expensive. More legal evidence is mounting that juries may hold employers liable if their distracted employees cause accidents while talking on company business.

Broaden your policy to ban use of other wireless devices while driving, including laptops and Blackberrys. Remind workers that using their cell phones or other devices is always secondary to operating the car safely.

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