Some businesses may have employees who must be on-call to work if needed – emergency personnel, service technicians and medical professionals come to mind. Even though they’re not actively working while waiting to be engaged, they’re still committing their time to being available.
If an employee has a job that ends at 11 am and another job starting at 2 pm, is the time between jobs compensable? What about employees who are on call during nights and weekends?
The answer depends on how the employee is ‘waiting to be engaged’ and what they are doing during their break from work. There are two things to consider:
- Is the employee required to stay in the vicinity of a specific location while they’re on call?
- Is the employee unable to engage in personal activities during the break?
If the answer to either of these is ‘yes,’ then the employee’s time is likely compensable while they’re waiting to be engaged.
If neither of these situations apply, the entire on-call period is not compensable. However, certain portions of the on-call time might still count as paid work.
When is On-Call Time Compensable?
The Department of Labor (DOL) asks employers to consider how much freedom the employee has to use the idle waiting time for his or her own personal purposes. If the on-call employee is restricted in what they can do – either because they’re tethered to a location, or they are constantly interrupted – the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) considers all of their time spent responding to calls as hours worked.
For example, if an employee cannot finish a meal or read a newspaper without being interrupted during an on-call period, he or she probably cannot use the time effectively for personal purposes and the FLSA considers it work time. The same is true for time spent answering calls from colleagues. For example, if an on-call maintenance technician helps another technician complete a service call via phone, the FLSA considers it work time.
When is On-Call Time Not Compensable?
The DOL does not consider waiting time or layover time as hours worked if the employee is:
- Completely relieved from duty while they’re waiting.
- Able to use the on-call time effectively for personal purposes.
- Told in advance that they may leave the job site and advised when to return to work.
If you have questions about compliance with the FLSA and other federal and state regulations, please contact MarathonHR for guidance.