“On-Call” Employees in California

Some Workers Must be Paid for Waiting

Patience is a virtue, but it may also be a business cost.  Depending on the circumstances, a company may be required to pay an hourly employee waiting for the call to come to work.  California and federal law recognize the various distinct situations:

On-Premises Standby:  An employee required to remain on a business’s premises after-hours to protect against crime or potential emergencies must be paid for all such time.  This is true even if the worker is idle.  Where any working hours count as daily or weekly overtime, care must be taken to ensure the proper compensation rate such extra hours. There are sometimes complicated formulas that come into play here.

Uncontrolled Standby: An on-call employee required to respond to an employer’s request return to work at any time, 24/7, but not restricted in any manner on off-work activities, response time, or location does not need to be paid as he or she is not considered under the control of the employer for those wide-open standby hours.

Controlled Standby: On the other hand, if an employee’s activities or location are sufficiently restricted during the off-hours, the employer is considered to have control of the employee and, therefore, must pay for the waiting time.  Such “controlled standby” restrictions include: (1) geographical restrictions on employee’s movements; (2) required response time; (3) required readiness standards (no degree of alcoholic consumption for instance); and (4) the extent the employer’s policy would otherwise impact on personal activities during the on-call time (for example, no travel to a zone where there is no cell phone coverage).

There are other factors once a worker is contacted for work during his or her off-hours.  For instance, a business must compensate an hourly employee for all time spent responding to an off-hours question or emergency via phone, text, email, or other communication channel.  In California, once an employee arrives to the business facility for work, “reporting time” requirements kick in and a minimum of 2 hours of pay is required.

These are just some of the basics.  Seek a knowledgeable employment lawyer for more detailed question and answer.

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