Topic of the Week Work Time
While I have regular shifts during the work week, I also am on call outside work hours one weekend a month. Should I be paid for my on-call time?
- While I have regular shifts during the work week, I also am on call outside work hours one weekend a month. Should I be paid for my on-call time?
- I've been doing some work "off-the-clock." My boss knows I do it, and hasn't told me not to do it, because many of us need to work extra time to meet our deadlines. Am I supposed to be paid for this work time?
- I am on duty for 36 hours at a time, but am allowed to sleep during that time. Does my employer have to pay me for my sleep time?
The practice of "on-call time" is becoming more widespread, as more employers agree to pay employees who agree to be available outside regular work hours if needed, and to respond by phone or computer within a certain period of time after being contacted. The increasing number of technological devices with the ability to keep individuals in touch 24/7, and employers' willingness to allow more flexible work arrangements means that the question of pay for "on-call-time" is becoming both more common and more complex.
Time that an employee is "on-call" may, under some circumstances, be considered as work time. Generally, if you are not allowed to control and use the time for your own enjoyment or benefit, then the time will be considered work time. On the other hand, if you have control of and are able to use the time for your own benefit, then the time will not be counted as payable time.
There are a variety of factors that courts use to decide if on-call time is work time, including:
the frequency of the calls received,
the expected response time,
the length of time worked when called,
any restrictions on how far an employee may travel away from home, and
the ability of the employee to switch shifts.
On-call time must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and there is no way of describing a rule that will apply in every circumstance.
I've been doing some work "off-the-clock." My boss knows I do it, and hasn't told me not to do it, because many of us need to work extra time to meet our deadlines. Am I supposed to be paid for this work time?
Yes. Employers can face expensive lawsuits when they fail to include time spent by employees performing work activities outside of their normal shifts as paid time.
Some employees, for example, may "come early" and start working before their shift's official starting time. This time counts as work time and must be included in pay computations, provided only that the employer knew or should have known that the employee was beginning work early (and, of course, to the extent that the employee spent pre-shift time actually performing work activities). Pre-shift "roll calls" are work time; so are pre-shift meetings like safety meetings. Time spent setting up equipment before the official start time of a shift is work time.
Employees may similarly "stay late" and perform work after their designated shift time is over, but this time must be counted as work time, as well. Time spent by an employee cleaning equipment after the close of a shift is work time. Post-shift work time could also include time spent by an employee performing job-related activities "on the way home," as for example a secretary who drops off the day's mail at the post office or delivers some paperwork to a customer or supplier. Some employees take work home. That time may well be work time. If an employee is contacted at home by telephone for work-related reasons, the time spent is work time (and, of course, if an employee is "called back" to work, the time counts as work time).
I am on duty for 36 hours at a time, but am allowed to sleep during that time. Does my employer have to pay me for my sleep time?
If you are required to be on duty for more than 24 hours at a time, you and your employer may agree to exclude eight hours per day as sleep and meal periods, for which you are not paid, as long as your employer furnishes adequate sleeping facilities and you can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep. However, if the conditions are such that you are not able to sleep for at least five hours during the eight-hour sleep period, or you are forced to work during that period, then the eight hours revert to time for which you must be paid.
If your work shift is less than 24 hours, then any time you are allowed to sleep during your shift is considered paid time.