If your employees carry cell phones or laptops, they may be on the clock — even if they’re at home after hours.
More employers are getting hit with lawsuits these days from workers claiming that carrying these devices is so restrictive that they should be considered “on duty” — and paid for it (including OT).
3 real-life scenarios
A few examples of recent lawsuits against employers:
- A maintenance man sued for unpaid wages for time he spent responding to messages while away from work. He received the messages on his employer-provided cell and had to respond within 15 minutes.
- Medical-equipment service reps sued to get paid for the time they were required to spend responding to customer questions. They couldn’t drink alcohol while on call and had to respond within 30 minutes.
- Another group of workers alleged their employer required them to be on call during meal breaks, stay on the premises and be in uniform.
The details may vary in these cases, but whether or not the employers win will all come down to whether non-exempt employees were so restricted by their on-call duties that they were essentially working extra hours without pay.
Protecting your company
You can safeguard your company with a quick review of your on-call policy.
Don’t have a policy? Now’s the time to consider developing one.
Here are four common problems to watch for:
- Overly restricted travel. Requiring workers to be within an hour’s drive is probably not overly restrictive. But having them stay on call and five minutes away probably is — and would be compensable time.
- Immediate response. Requiring calls be returned within 30 minutes has been deemed OK, but a five-minute requirement probably wouldn’t be.
- Uniform requirements. Requiring employees to wear uniforms while on call is too restrictive and they would need to be compensated.
- Frequent calls. Employees have too little freedom and need to be compensated if they have to answer work-related calls frequently.