#368: On Call in Canada – What are your rights?


#368: On Call in Canada – What are your rights?

I was wary to post more on this subject, but here goes!  The last time I brought this subject up, it resulted in behind-the-scenes fallout with two guys that used to work under me at the Record Store, who did not agree with my stance. They did get me thinking though, and since that time I have tried to find out more about worker’s rights in Ontario on this specific issue…and I finally got my answer!

My question was this:  Can an employer order you to use your own personal cell phone, for work (specifically retail) purposes, without compensation or prior agreement?

Some additional details to fill in the blanks:

1. I was a store manager.  Managers were required to make themselves available when needed.

2. I bought my cell phone myself in May of 2000.  It was purchased after getting lost on a weekend trip up to Huntsville in the middle of the night.  I decided, “Well, I never want to feel that isolated again,” so I went to the Bell store at the mall with my buddy T-Rev and selected a phone.  That phone lasted me until 2006, which wasn’t bad at all.

3. I did allow work to call my cell phone in the past.  I did not keep the number secret and I posted it so that I could be called in case of emergency.  This was my secondary contact number, because most of the time the phone was shut off.  My landline was my primary contact.  My cell wasn’t even all that helpful, much of time.  There was no cell phone reception up at the cottage, where I spent most of my summer weekends, but for years this was not a problem.

4. Not all store managers even had cell phones.  Joe aka “Big Nose” did not have a cell phone that I knew of.  If he did, he was smart enough not to tell anyone about it.  I was a friend of his and I didn’t have his cell number, if it existed.

So when my direct supervisor stormed in on the morning of December 19, 2005 after a weekend crisis while I was out of the house for an hour and unavailable on the phone, they demanded that I leave my personal phone on “from now on”.  I have always assumed that I must have had some rights on that issue.  Allowing work to call my cell is one thing, but being ordered to leave my phone on 24/7?

Since I had been looking for an “exit strategy” for a while, I used this cell phone disagreement as a justification in my mind to give them my notice.  I did not feel “entitled” to any special treatment, I simply wanted to be treated fairly.  But I had no fight left in me, and I wanted out more than I wanted to stay.  But if I had stayed…could they have made me keep my cell phone on 24/7?

A legal source informed me that no, an employer cannot order you to use a cell phone that they didn’t pay for.  End of story. Period.

“You did nothing wrong,” said the lawyer. “You’re weren’t working for the Fire Department.”  And I finally know that I was right.

I have no regrets today, and the store that I used to work for continues to thrive.  I am glad for that; the store was a huge chunk (28.5%) of my life on Earth.  The parting was done amicably, and I am proud of everything we achieved as a team.  I am left with these wonderful Record Store Tales to remember one of the most exciting and interesting times in my life!



  1. The lawyer is dead right, they can’t make you leave your cell phone on. Glad that it ended well for you. My experience of this was when I broke down in a company car, I had to use up all my cell phone credit to phone all the appropriate people. The company told me to get a cheap pay as you go cell after that, which they paid for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A logical answer but glad to finally know definitively.

      I used to have a work BlackBerry at my current job, but they decided about a year ago that I didn’t need it. Now, if anybody calls my personal cell phone I get compensated for the call.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike.

    This is the corporate ofice. We were just wondering about the monthly cell phone bill. Why are there charges every month from music stores in Japan?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m still a Dr. of Rock, for the record. Just wanted that made clear.

      Hey, Jimmy meant to ask you — you know that podcast we were talking about a few months ago. Is that happening? Can I use the recording that I did here?


  3. I would think that if the store demanded you leave YOUR cell phone on to be available for THEIR business, THEY would need to pay for YOUR cell phone.

    I had a job out west that required me to carry a cell phone. But they just told me to do some research and get myself hooked up with one, and they paid it. Most awesome part – that job was a one year contract and I used that phone twice: once to call my wife and tell her I was gonna be late home from work, and once on a business-related call. Two calls in a year (and only one work call). Guess it wasn’t really needed – I just used the landline.


    1. Yeah the reason that I lost my work BlackBerry a couple years ago was that I had only received like 2 calls on it or something like that! The work Berry was good for emails though, but I also wasn’t getting any emails that couldn’t have been read the following morning.

      When I bought my personal Berry (Z10) my boss asked me, “Why did you buy another BlackBerry? You know you can use your work one for personal use too right?” I said yeah, I understood that, but that I just preferred having a personal phone too. He said “no problem,” and obviously I am glad I bought the Z10 since I no longer need a work Berry!

      Z10 was way superior to the older model I had from work anyway. Bold I think.


  4. It’s the same in English law, unless specifically stipulated otherwise in your contract – most sensible places would either give you a work one, or pay you an allowance towards your own one.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I knew about this myself. Even today where I work a whole new telephony system is going in where phones will be integrated with MS Outlook, and you can have all calls go thru your cell. No effn way I will have my cell phone hooked up to the work phone. I know our managers have cells paid for by work, so they have to be hooked up. But not me. No way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did not know definitively. I wish I did — I could have nipped that last convo off in the bud. I ended up deleting the comments.

      I have no problem with work phones, work emails, but do it right. Do it legit.


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