The rules for paying for on-Call time — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

The rules for paying for on-Call time

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Q. Our facility supplies support services to local hospitals, providing around-the-clock care on an as-needed basis to repair or service equipment. This does not demand a constant, on-site staffing presence, but it does require us to keep certain employees on call during evening and night-time hours.

We rotate who is on call and require them to carry beepers so they can respond within 30 minutes of being paged. In addition, we restrict on-call employees from traveling more than two hours from the hospital to which they are assigned, using drugs or alcohol that would impair their ability to respond to a page and engaging in any activity that would make it impossible for them to respond to a page within the allotted time frame.

Traditionally, we have not paid on-call employees unless and until they receive a hospital page. We do pay for the time it takes them to get to and from the hospital, in addition to the time it takes to perform their duties.

Recently, a number of employees have demanded that we pay them for the entire period during which they are on call. They claim it is unfair to restrict their activities without compensating them for those restrictions. Are we required under the law to pay the employees for the time they spend on call?

A. Based upon the description of your on-call services, you likely do not have to pay the employees for the period when they are simply on call (but not actually performing work for the hospital). Typically, courts allow reasonable restrictions on employees’ activities when they are fulfilling an on-call role.

Such restrictions can include prohibitions on drinking, drug use or activities that would interfere with the ability to respond to a page. It is also important that employees be able to move about with relative freedom while on call—so they are not required to sit by their phones waiting for a call that may never come. Finally, your company must give a reasonable call-in time to allow employees the flexibility to engage in regular, everyday tasks.

Based on the description of your on-call policy, it appears that your company meets the requirements set forth by the courts and is not required to pay the employees for the time spent waiting to fulfill on-call duties.

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