Mobile Communications Device Stipend Policy

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Policy Code: 
4112
Approval Authority: 
Chancellor
Policy Type: 
University Policy
Policy Owner: 
Administration and Finance
Responsible Office: 
Administration and Finance - 828.251.6742

I. Purpose

The use of a Mobile Communication Device (MCD) can be a useful and necessary resource for certain University employees who must conduct University business when they are away from their work stations. For those employees, the University may, in its sole discretion, issue a University owned MCD to the employee or may authorize a monetary stipend to help defray the cost of an approved service plan for the employee’s personal MCD. This policy establishes criteria and procedures for the University to either (1) issue a University-owned MCD to the employee or (2) authorize a monetary stipend to pre-approved, qualifying employees who meet the criteria pertaining to the use of MCDs for University business purposes, while complying with IRS regulations and meeting the University’s fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of the State of North Carolina. The decision to issue an MCD, authorize a stipend, or to authorize neither is within the sole discretion of the University and is non-grievable.

II. Scope/Covered Persons

This policy applies to University EPA and SPA employees in full-time, twelve month appointments. The policy is also limited to employees whose position necessitates that they carry a MCD to enable him/her to regularly communicate by telephone and/or to send and receive time-sensitive University email remotely, in time periods or settings where a departmental office computer or telephone are inadequate. This policy does not apply to temporary, part-time, or student employees. Federal grants and/or sponsored projects may not be used to pay the stipend for a MCD unless specifically allowed by the granting agency, in which case, the MCD justification form must be approved by the Office of Sponsored Scholarship and Programs prior to submitting to Payroll Services.

III. Definition

For the purpose of this policy, a Mobile Communication Device (MCD) is defined as cellular (“cell” or “mobile”) telephone, smart-phone, and other Personal Data Assistant (PDA), pager, wireless card, and any other similar mobile communication device.

IV. Policy

If the University requires an employee to carry a mobile communication device to perform his/her duties, the University may either (1) issue a University-owned MCD to the employee or (2) require the employee to obtain a personally-owned MCD.

Issuing University-owned MCDs should only be authorized in exceptional cases where, for example, it is critical that the MCD meet certain specifications or where the MCD may need to be shared between employees so that a single contact phone number may be published (e.g. for on-duty counseling staff).

Where the employee is required to obtain a personally-owned MCD, the University may pay a monthly stipend to help defray the cost of an approved monthly service plan. Payment to the employee for the purchase of the MCD itself is not permitted.

The process for authorizing either issuance of a University-owned MCD or payment of a monthly stipend shall begin with a recommendation from the employee’s supervisor through the supervisory chain. The final decision shall be made by the senior staff member within whose unit the employee’s department resides.

To be eligible for the data stipend, the MCD must integrate with the University’s e-mail system (currently Google Mail) in order to access the University’s email, calendar, and other University-related services. All University policies related to storing and transferring secure data must be followed when a data plan is required and a stipend is authorized.

Where a stipend is authorized. the stipend ($35 monthly for voice only plan, $35 monthly for data only plan, $70 monthly for voice and data plan) will be included in the employee’s pay and reported on the employee’s W-2. The stipend is subject to all regular payroll taxes (including Federal Tax, FICA Tax and NC State Tax), but will not be included in the employee’s State Retirement computation.

The stipend amount is taxable income because employees are not required to provide detailed documentation of business calls. It is possible that the stipend will not cover the complete cost of business usage. In that event, the employee may be able to claim the remainder as a business deduction on a personal tax return. Check with your tax preparer in the event of new or changed filing rules. Although the stipend will be paid to the employee as additional salary, it is not used to determine University retirement coverage or other benefits.

Annual authorization of the MCD allowance expires with the December payroll payment for each year. A newly completed and authorized MCD Authorization Form for the future year, beginning January 1 must be received by the AVC of Finance by the required deadline for January payment of MCD Stipends. See Payroll - Mobile Communication Device Stipend Forms Deadlines for additional information.

Monthly billing statements of employees receiving a MCD stipend may be subject to University review. Within three business (3) days of a request from the University, an employee must provide billing statements related to University business conducted with an employee owned MCD. Prior to providing such statements the employee may redact information related to personal calls, text messages, or emails. Billing statements reflecting University business must be retained by the employee for a period of three (3) years.

Employees who use their personal MCD for business purposes are responsible for maintaining copies of business related emails and text messages sent or received on the MCD in conformity with the University’s records retention schedules. Additionally, where a litigation hold is issued by the University General Counsel, the employee must ensure that emails and text messages that fall within the litigation hold parameters are retained for the period of time specified in the litigation hold notice.

Use of MCDs for business is prohibited while driving a motor vehicle unless the employee stops the vehicle in a safe place before using the device.

An employee receiving an MCD stipend will not be reimbursed for business or personal phone calls while in travel status as outlined in the Office of State Budget Manual unless the employee is traveling in a geographic location where MCD service is unavailable.

MCD stipend \ rates may be changed based on future annual market rate reviews or State requirements.

V. Procedures

A. Completion and Submission of MCD Stipend Form

  1. Employees applying for a MCD stipend must complete the MCD Stipend Authorization Form. The request form is available in the Finance Department and also on the Finance Department website.
  2. The completed request form with approval signatures must be returned to the AVC for Finance processing.
  3. Employees should refer to the Mobile Communication Device Stipend Form Deadlines schedule to determine when the effective date for the stipend will be included in their pay. The MCD stipend will not be prorated for partial month’s use.

B. Department Approval of the MCD Stipend Form

Requests for MCD stipend must be signed by the employee’s supervisor. Final approval must be made by Senior Staff Member. Employees shall, in consultation with their supervisors, determine the plan needed for University business purposes.

Each department will review the necessity of MCD devices, and will evaluate when alternative means of communication (e.g. land lines, pagers, mobile radios) would provide adequate service and would be more cost effective. The approved stipend amount for a MCD voice, data, or voice and data stipend should be at the level that is the minimum required to support the employees’ work requirements. Senior Staff decisions regarding the approval of a MCD stipend are final and non-grievable. Outlined below are recommended criteria for determining eligibility for the stipend.

  1. Safety requirements dictate that having mobile/remote communication capabilities is an integral part of performing job duties or the employee is designated as a “first responder” or “critical” employee who needs to be available for emergencies.
  2. The job function of the employee requires considerable time away (more than 50%) or travel time (out of office on a weekly basis) from his/her assigned work area or office and it is important to the department function that he/she is accessible during those times.
  3. The job function of the employee requires him/her to be regularly accessible or on-call outside of normal working hours for University business calls.
  4. The use of a MCD is a critical requirement for job performance. The job function of the employee requires him/her to have wireless data or internet access at all times.
  5. Employee monitors and administers mission critical information systems during non-business hours (for example, Information Technology Services).
  6. Senior officer or other critical decision maker or other special circumstances approved at Senior Staff level.

C. Obtaining a Personally-Owned MCD and Maintaining Eligibility for MCD Stipend

If required to carry a mobile communication device to perform his/her duties, the employee will obtain a personally-owned mobile communication device and service plan. An employee approved to receive a MCD stipend has the following responsibilities:

  1. Negotiating and managing a personal MCD contract. Each employee is free to select the device, service provider, plan, and features of his/her choice that meet the job responsibilities as determined by the department.
  2. Assuming all charges associated with the cellular service and device including lost, damaged, or stolen equipment and accessories.
  3. Ensuring the carrier selected has service in required usage areas, such as on campus and/or at home as required by the department.
  4. Establishing and maintaining connectivity to UNC Asheville data services. The employee should work with the MCD vendor and service provider to support connectivity. University Information Technology Services is not responsible for support of a non-university MCD.
  5. Establishing himself/herself as the billing party. Regardless of cost, the employee is responsible for any additional expenses above the University stipend.
  6. Maintaining an active service contract for the duration of the approved period.
  7. Terminating the service contract and fully paying any additional charges, including termination fees.
  8. Notifying the supervisor immediately if the eligibility criteria are no longer met, if service is cancelled, phone is lost, damaged, or when the phone number, carrier, or plan eligibility changes.

D. Enforcement and Penalties:

The employee is responsible for paying his or her monthly bill directly to the service provider. An employee who allows MCD service to lapse while receiving the stipend will no longer be eligible to participate in the MCD Stipend Plan, and amounts paid after the service lapse will be recovered through payroll deduction.