Teachers in Iowa and across the country have confiscated cell phones from students who are using them during class.

Whether they're scrolling on social media, sending text messages, or looking at whatever is popular on the internet that day, taking cell phones from students who are using them in school happens every day in Iowa.

Normally, these students will get them back by the end of class or school day but if the problem is constantly happening, a teacher might make a parent come with the student to the school and pick up the phone.

What about in Iowa workplaces? Has your boss ever threatened to confiscate your phone? Hopefully, most people who are mature enough to have a job aren't wasting too much time on their cell phones but it certainly happens at various jobs.

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Is this legal? Can your boss legally take your phone while you're at work?

Unsplash - Rob Hampson
Unsplash - Rob Hampson

Is It Legal?

Whether you're working on a construction site, in an office, or at a restaurant, you may want to sneak a quick glance at your phone. You might want to check your text messages or see if you have any missed calls.

It turns out that you might want to be careful about how many times you check your phone to see if your friend Snapchatted you back. According to Richard Carlson, who is a professor at South Texas College of Law, an employer is legally allowed to confiscate your phone during work hours. He told the news outlet KHou11

"Yes, as long as the employer didn’t use unlawful force in taking the phone away from the employee."

Most people in the workforce are employed at their own will. This technically allows employers to change the rules or workplace demands on any given day.

While employers can technically confiscate your phone on any given day, they are not legally allowed to go through it and they can't try to wrestle it out of your hands or use any type of force to get you to hand it over.

If they want to prevent employees from using them while clocked into work, that's legal but they can't take your phone by wrestling you to the ground and if you do hand it over, they can't start rifling through your text messages or photos.

What About A Work Phone?

If your workplace gives you a 'work phone,' it should be pretty obvious that they can legally take the phone and look at what's in it whenever they want. A phone provided to you by your workplace is still company property and you should not expect privacy when using one.


In my opinion, as long as your phone isn't completely distracting you from work and preventing you or other people from getting work stuff done, taking a quick 5-second glance at your phone shouldn't be a big deal in most workplace scenarios. I'm not saying you should check your phone every 5 minutes either but a quick glance from time to time shouldn't warrant having your phone taken away.

If you're a parent, you might want to quickly check your phone from time to time, in case of any emergency with your kid. Maybe they need a ride home from school, or an afterschool practice/activity was canceled for whatever reason and they want to let you know they took the bus home early. I can't imagine many bosses or managers having a huge problem with that.

If you're constantly checking your phone because you're bored and you want to scroll through social media, that's an entirely different ball game.

What do you think? Should a boss legally be allowed to take cell phones in the workplace? Let us know in the comments!

*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Please speak with your lawyer or local law enforcement regarding employers confiscating cell phones at work*

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