Ask a Lawyer
Do I Get Paid for On Call Time?
Details of the Situation Determine Your Compensation
My coworker and I generally work Monday through Friday, but we’ve been asked to be on call every other Saturday in case the equipment we work with malfunctions. Should we be paid for this time?
You are entitled to be paid for time on the telephone or responding in person to calls on Saturdays. In fact, you are entitled to compensation for all time worked, including reasonable travel time to and from the work site.
For example, if the malfunctioning machine is five miles from your home but 10 miles from where you were called, you should be paid for your travel time to the client’s site as well as your travel time home. If you are required to go to a work site, the employer must pay you for at least two hours, even if travel and actual time worked is fewer than that. If you have already worked 40 hours prior to Saturday, you are likely entitled to overtime pay as well.
Whether you should be paid for the time you are on call but not responding to an emergency depends on the particular details of your situation. The leading case concerns coroners who had to respond by telephone within 15 minutes and, if necessary, initiate an investigation within a reasonable amount of time. The Court stated that the ultimate consideration as to whether on-call time is compensable is the amount of control the employer exercises over the activities of the employee. It also set forth a list of factors bearing on that determination:
• the degree to which the worker is free to engage in personal activities;
• whether the frequency of calls is unduly restrictive;
• whether the on-call employee can easily trade his or her oncall responsibilities with another employee; and
• whether there are excessive geographical restrictions on the employee.
The Court did not consider having to call in within 15 minutes of a page and travel to the site an excessive geographical restriction. However, in a case where firefighters received three to five calls in a 24-hour on-call period and had to respond within 20 minutes, another court found the time compensable. Your case appears to fall somewhere in between.
Amy Semmel is an attorney with the firm of Donfeld, Kelley & Rollman. Her practice emphasizes employment, trade secret and business tort law. The information discussed here is a general explanation of the law, and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Readers requiring legal advice regarding a specific situation should consult an employment attorney.