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I recently had a client ask me the following question: “In the past several weeks, Pokémon Go has created a widespread distraction in my workplace. How may I legally reduce the negative impact that this game may be having with my employees’ productivity and, more importantly, their safety?” I found his concerns to be well placed. With this game’s rising popularity are valid concerns of employee productivity and, yes, their safety. We all can agree that this is not the first distraction thanks to smartphone and related technology and, of course, it will not be the last. Reasonably written and fairly enforced policies will convey to your employees what types of behavior are permissible and when. However, strict prohibition may result in unintended consequences for you as the employer. This popular free game uses the GPS feature and camera of the player’s smartphone or tablet to capture creatures called “Pokémon” who appear on the user’s screen as if the creature was actually in the same location as the user. Players must travel with their smartphones or tablets, looking at its screen display to locate the different Pokémon creatures who may be residing in different areas based on the player’s GPS location. To “catch” the Pokémon, players unleash a “Poke Ball” at the creature on their screen by using their finger to flick the ball toward the Pokémon. In the work environment, this means the player – your employee – is walking (or even running) around all the while looking at their phone or tablet screen and not their actual environment. You may wish to consider communicating to your employees the following limitations:

  • Review your employee handbook or policies regarding the use of email, internet, and electronic devices to ensure that they are up to date. The policies should clearly explain the limitations regarding the use of these systems for personal matters. It is prudent that the policy identifies the types of sites (such as Facebook and Instagram), applications (such as Pokémon Go), games and other programs that employees should not access at work and then note that those sites, applications, games and other programs are a non-exhaustive list.

  • If your business allows for reasonable use of the internet, smartphones, tablets and personal email, the policy should state that an employee’s personal activity should not interfere with the performance at any time with their job responsibilities. The policy should provide specific guidelines as to when it is appropriate, if at all, for employees to use their smartphones, tablets, or the applications during work hours. For example, you may allow employees to play the game during their lunch break or other approved work day breaks, but not while on the clock and not in any way which could interfere with anybody else.

  • Your policy may restrict access to applications by prohibiting employees from downloading them through your networks, downloading them onto company-issued devices, or registering for them with company email addresses.

  • As is the case with any third-party applications, you should take into consideration that employees who download and use Pokémon Go on their company-issued smartphones or tablets may open the door to potential malware and virus risks. Similarly, there is the risk that players could be posting photos