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HR questions for dentists: Can dentists ban smartwatch use?

Aug. 17, 2022
Smartwatches aren't so smart if they're keeping dental team members from doing their jobs.
Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg, Human Resources Experts

QUESTION: I have a question about the legal ramifications of asking employees not to wear smartwatches, e.g., Apple watches. They understand that no cell phones are allowed while they’re working; however, since smartwatches have become so popular, many people use them instead. Please advise. 

ANSWER: Being allowed to wear a smartwatch is not legally protected by any law. Like cell phones, these kinds of things can be controlled and managed by employers. You will need to ensure you are consistent with all employees. For example, if you plan to ban them, then that rule needs to apply to all employees, even the best ones and those who don’t check the watches all the time.  

You need to establish a policy about what you will or will not allow and make sure everyone is clear about your expectations. Once you do that, you can hold people accountable to this policy and speak with those who don't adhere to the rules.  

You could also simply talk to the problem employees if they're looking at or using their smartwatches and this is getting in the way of their job. In this case, you wouldn't put a rule on everyone, but you'd simply be addressing those employees who can't manage the watch and their time appropriately. 

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About the Author

Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg | Human Resources Experts

Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Boartfield is a human resources compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit bentericksen.com.