It’s a tricky question without an easily discernible answer: When do employees on call need to be paid? Here’s some help from the Department of Labor.
The DOL recently issued an Opinion Letter in response to a question about whether a group of employees’ on-call time was considered hours worked under the FLSA. The employees in this example must:
- be reachable at all times
- abstain from alcohol, and
- get to work within an hour of being contacted.
The employees don’t need to stay on the employers’ premises and are called only on rare occasions.
The DOL’s answer: The on-call time doesn’t have to be paid. Why not?
The key question is whether the employees can still use the time for personal reasons. Personal use of the time might be limited if employees have to stay in one place, need to get to work very quickly after they’re called, or if they’re contacted frequently.
In those cases, the time would need to be paid.
But in this example, an hour is a reasonable response time — employees can go where they want, and the prohibition on alcohol isn’t restrictive enough to put broad limits on how employees use the time.
You can read the entire letter here.