On-Call Shifts

In some industries, it is common to designate on-call employees to respond to situations that may arise outside of regular working hours. Employees who are required to be on call may or may not be entitled to compensation for their time. Generally, an on-call employee must be paid for any time he or she performs actual work. Although it sounds simple, determining what constitutes work time depends on several factors. The biggest consideration is the number of restrictions imposed on the employee while on call.

The issue of on-call and waiting time is a confusing area of employment law. Determining whether an employee should be compensated for on-call or waiting time is determined on a case-by-case basis. A skilled lawyer can help you determine your obligations under the law.

When Are You Required to Pay An On-Call Worker?

If an employee is able to use on-call time in the pursuit of personal activities, an employer is generally not required to pay the employee. However, if the employer impose restrictions on how the employee can use on-call time, such as requiring the employee to remain at the workplace or within a short distance of a job site, the employee must be compensated for his/her time.

Even if on-call employees are not at the work site, they may still be considered "working" if they are on call. If an employee cannot use their time outside of the workplace for their own purposes, they are considered to be working while on-call and that time is compensable.

"Engaged to Wait" vs. "Waiting to Be Engaged"

Determining when an employee is on the clock can be difficult. Each case must be evaluated on its particular facts. If the employee is engaged to wait, the employee must be compensated as if working normal job duties. Receptionists who wait for phone calls, fire fighters waiting for alarms, restaurant staff waiting for customers to arrive and factory workers waiting for equipment to be repaired all must be paid for their time spent waiting if they are required to remain at the work site.

Other employees may be permitted to leave the workplace but must remain close by and be accessible by phone or pager. If this employee is able to use the on-call time to pursue personal activities, compensation for on-call time may not be required (unless the employee performs work). If the employee receives multiple calls and interruptions to the point that he or she cannot pursue personal activities, an employer may need to compensate the employee for the on-call time. This employee's time should be considered as hours worked.

An Attorney Can Help You Understand Your Rights

Whether you are an employer or an employee, the issue of on-call pay can be confusing. The knowledgeable lawyers at Mays & Kerr routinely work with businesses and workers to resolve concerns related to on-call pay. Because each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, we will evaluate all of the information to help you determine which hours should be counted as time worked for an on-call employee.