In addition to regular work hours, some employers require employees to be “on-call,” or “on standby,” for a certain period of time. When on-call, employees are usually not performing any work-related tasks, but if they are called to work they must respond accordingly.
Depending on the nature of the employment, employees may be eligible for pay while on-call. In order to determine eligibility for on-call wages, a court will usually consider factors such as the amount of control that the employer exercises over the worker while on-call, as well as the degree of interference with the employee’s personal affairs.  

When Is an Employer Required to Pay an Employee for On-Call Time?

The first thing that a court will look to when addressing this question is whether on-call wages are addressed in company policies or in an employment contract between the worker and employer. If these documents specifically contain on-call provisions, then the court will usually honor what is contained in the employment agreement.
If no formal agreement exists regarding on-call time, then the court will have to conduct an analysis to determine whether the employer’s control over the worker interferes with their personal affairs so much as to require compensation. For example, if the employer requires that on-call workers remain near the work premises, these workers may be entitled to wages for their waiting time. On-call pay is almost always required when the employee is residing at the actual worksite.   

What Factors Will a Court Use to Determine On-Call Pay Eligibility?

Courts determine eligibility for on-call pay using the following factors:

  • Whether employees are restricted to a particular geographical location
  • Length of the required response time
  • Frequency of work calls during the on-call period
  • Degree to which employees are able to attend to personal activities while on-call
  • Length of time that workers are on-call (i.e., periodic/cyclical versus continual
  • Whether employees can trade or exchange on-call shifts
  • Whether being on-call prevents employees from engaging in various activities, such as drinking alcohol
  • Use of a paging devise

Using these factors, the court will determine the degree of control that the employer is able to exercise over on-call employees. Any combination of the above factors might yield different eligibility results. 

What If My On-Call Wages Are Being Withheld?

Employers are required to compensate their workers for time put in as work. Wages are regulated by federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If your on-call time is considered to be “working time,” you may be entitled to remedies. You will likely be required to file with an administrative agency before filing a lawsuit. Be sure to compile documents such as receipts, pay stubs, work logs, and a written report of the incident(s) involved.

Do I Need a Lawyer for On-Call Employment Disputes?

Workplace disputes are serious and require the attention of a professional. You should contact an employment attorney immediately if you have performed your on-call duties but have not been compensated fairly. A lawyer can help review any contracts that you have with your employer, and they will be able to determine your eligibility for pay under the laws of your state.