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The growing technical ability to work remotely, combined the growth of work-related legal disputes, is raising the issue of work versus personal time.


Productivity expert Laura Stack has little sympathy for the employee side of the argument.

"Show me one employee who doesn't waste time at work," the Colorado-based author said. "I see so much abuse of working hours by employees -- personal phone calls, socializing, checking eBay listings, booking personal travel, etc. -- that I don't believe it's unreasonable for an employer to want a bit of work on personal hours.

"If you don't want to be on call, don't be a doctor, a computer technician, or a reporter," she added.

As technology moves ahead, and the days when "having a pager was a great big deal" are gone, said Peterson, "We're going to have to trust people's common sense, on both sides."

Legal expert Thompson said many of the disputes could be decided on the basis of what in law is called "de minimis."

"What that means is, 'Is it too trivial for the law to mess with?'" he said.

Many cases, he said, arise when employees grow unhappy at work. "It's fine as long as everybody's happy," he said. "Once they cease being happy, they want to make an issue of it."

(Editing by Eric Beech)

This article was originally published on 2008-06-25
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