Charging cell phones at work: a strict law or a mere threat?

In 2017, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that charging your own cell phone at work without your employer’s permission can be considered theft. This decision has unsettled many employees and raises questions about how much “self-empowerment” is allowed in the workplace is allowed in the workplace.

There are many rumors circulating about the potential penalties for charging your cell phone in the workplace without permission. There is talk of fines to prison sentences of up to five years. But how much truth is really behind these claims?

Below, we’ll get to the bottom of whether charging your cell phone at work can actually lead to prosecution and what the consequences might be. We will refer to the current law and relevant rulings to clarify the rights and obligations of employers and employees.

Charging your cell phone at work – is it legal?

Charging cell phones at work is a common behavior. Given the fact that almost everyone has a smartphone, it is understandable that you also need to charge it. However, there are some employers who prohibit cell phone charging in the workplace.

The question is whether charging cell phones in the workplace is legal, or if it can be punished. It is important to know that charging cell phones in the workplace itself is not illegal. However, there are some factors that can trigger a criminal offense.

An example of this is when charging cell phones in the workplace interferes with your work. If you are busy charging your cell phone while your employer is actually assigning you work, you can be penalized for work time fraud. In this case, the penalty can be up to five years in prison.

However, it is unlikely that someone will be punished simply for charging their cell phone at work. Usually, other factors must be considered before a penalty is imposed. It is therefore important to respect workplace rules and ensure that charging your cell phone does not interfere with your work.

Unauthorized cell phone charging at work: legal consequences

Using one’s own cell phone at work has become standard practice. Many employees also use their cell phones for charging purposes. But what happens if you plug your cell phone into a power outlet without authorization?

  • If it is a case of theft of electrical energy?
  • If charging while at work is unauthorized private use of electricity?
  • May result in criminal prosecution?
Charging cell phones at work: a strict law or a mere threat?

The answer to the question about consequences is clear: Yes, there are criminal consequences for unauthorized charging of the cell phone at work. Because it is a case of theft of electricity. Charging the cell phone without the employer’s consent is an unauthorized private use of electricity. And this may constitute a criminal offense.

The possible penalties depend on the individual case. They can be up to five years imprisonment. However, as a rule, a fine will be imposed. There may also be consequences under labor law, such as warnings or even dismissals.

Employees should therefore be aware that they may only charge their cell phones during work with the employer’s consent. Otherwise, they can expect both criminal and labor law consequences.

What can the employer do about cell phone charging in the workplace?

It is well known that cell phone batteries drain quickly and need to be recharged often. However, charging cell phones at work can become a problem if the employer prohibits it or the use of electricity is for other purposes. In such cases, the employee may be fined if they attempt to charge the phone anyway. However, the amount of the penalty depends on the action the employer takes in this regard.

To avoid such problems, employers have several options. For example, they may provide charging cables and adapters that are exclusively for charging company devices. Alternatively, special charging stations can be set up and assigned to specific departments or teams. However, if electricity consumption is too high, the employer may also consider signing a contract with an energy provider to keep track of costs.

Another option is to establish clear rules and guidelines on the use of electricity in the company. Consequences can also be defined that take effect if the rules are broken. For example, students may be given a warning or have their electricity cut off. However, it is not permissible for the employer to impose penalties or even terminate the employee for charging the cell phone at work without warning.

  • Thus, the employer can address the issue of cell phone charging in many ways.
  • Setting up dedicated charging stations and providing charging cables and adapters are appropriate measures.
  • Clear rules and guidelines on the use of electricity in the company can also help to solve the problem of cell phone charging.


After thorough research and analysis of the legal texts as well as rulings of various courts, it can be said that charging the cell phone at work is not necessarily punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. What matters more is whether there is an explicit agreement between employer and employee that restricts or prohibits the private use of work devices.

It is also important that in individual cases there is a balance between the employee’s interest in private cell phone use and the employer’s interest in preventing misuse and maintaining working hours. A blanket criminal liability without considering these factors is unlikely.

However, even if there is an agreement and charging the cell phone at work is prohibited, it is not necessarily necessary to expect a prison sentence. Depending on the severity of the violation, milder penalties such as a warning, reduction in pay or summary dismissal may also be considered.

In summary, the question of whether charging your cell phone at work is a crime must always be considered on a case-by-case basis. There is no general criminal liability. Nevertheless, it is advisable to adhere to existing rules and agreements and best to avoid the private use of work equipment.

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