Employers who require their employees to stay on-duty or on-call may need to compensate these employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines compensation requirements for employees who must remain on-call. Generally, employers must compensate employees for their entire on-call shift if the employees were required to stay on the job site.
The Department of Labor provides general reimbursement guidelines for employees who are required to remain on-call. Although there are no strict rules, the Department of Labor allows employers and employees to issue specific opinions for whether reimbursement is required for a specific situation. Additionally, several federal appellate court cases have provided rulings to aid the Department of Labor, employers and employees. Each state is free to provide mandatory compensation for its on-call workers.
Generally, the Department of Labor recommends that employers compensate employees if there are major restrictions and significant burdens limiting personal freedom during their on-call periods. For instance, whether an employee remains on call during the full workday period is an important factor. Employers who frequently page an employee during the entire on-call period may have to compensate its employees for the entire on-call period. If the employer pages the employee infrequently, then the employer may not need to reimburse the employee.
Reviews by the Department of Labor included cases where employers onerously burdened employees with restrictions placed on their personal lives. On the other hand, situations where the employee's personal freedoms are not restricted but only inconvenienced may not require compensation. If the employee can use the majority of the on-call period to pursue non-work related items, then the employer does not typically have to compensate the employee. Similarly, if callback requirements are limited, then the employee may not have to be compensated for the entire on-call period.
The Department of Labor also considers significant geographical restrictions as a compelling factor in reimbursing employees. For example, employers should compensate workers who must stay in one location for their on-call duty. In addition, employers may be required to compensate employees if employees are not able to trade on-call duty periods with other employees.
If the employer is obligated to compensate the employee for the on-call work period, then the FLSA further mandates employers to compensate employees for overtime pay at time and one-half of the typical pay rates for that employee if the on-call work period would exceed a 40-hour workweek.