Are employees entitled to be paid when they’re ‘on call’?

Many jobs require employees to be “on call” when they’re not at work. But are employees entitled to be paid for this time? The answer, as so often happens, is, “It depends.”

A recent lawsuit involved a police officer and emergency medical technician in Maryland who was required to be on-call after her scheduled shift. She filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming she was entitled to be paid for her on-call hours.

But a judge ruled against her. The judge said that during her on-call time, she wasn’t restricted in any way. She could stay in her home or she could travel around the area, and she could eat, sleep, watch TV, and spend time with her child. In other words, the fact that she was on-call didn’t interfere with her ability to engage in all her normal personal activities.

On the other hand, if being on-call had significantly limited where she could go or what she could do during on-call hours, then she might have been entitled to pay for that time.

Of course, on the occasions when she was actually called in to work, she was entitled to be paid for the time she put in after her regular shift had ended.

The law on this issue varies from place to place and circumstance to circumstance. We’d be happy to discuss your specific situation with you.

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