With the snow today, my colleague Michael Lavelle has this timely post about call in pay, particularly as it relates to weather-related jobs. My thanks to Mick for this contribution, as always.
The winter season brings more weather-related emergencies, and often requires maintenance employees or replacement staff to be on-call with beepers or cell phones.
The wage-hour regulations for on-call situations are pretty straight-forward. Employees "waiting to be engaged" are not on work time, although employees "engaged to be waiting" are.
This means that if an employee’s on-call obligations are too strict – for example, he has to wait at a particular place, or it is virtually certain that he will be called in, maybe more than once – he must be paid to be waiting.
If he able to use his time productively for personal reasons, only being required to carry a beeper or cell phone, he is not on working time.
(For those interested in the actual federal regulatory reference, you can check out 29 CFR 785.17 of the Code of Federal Regulations.)
And what happens if the employee is called?
There are two situations:
- If the called employee goes to his usual place of work, he is paid only for his actual time at work, as in his usual workday.
- If he is called to a customer’s location, and so goes a greater distance than his usual commute, he should also be paid for travel time. (29 CFR 785.36).
But what about incentives to induce an employee to accept, or at least not resent, the possibility of being called out in the middle of the night?
These are not required by law, but many employers, especially in 24-hour service industries like health care, have special on-call pay as part of their overall compensation plans.
Some options are stipends, like $25 per day or $200 per week; premium pay such as overtime or even double-time regardless of whether the employee exceeded 40 hours in that week; or minimum pay regardless of the amount of time spent at work. For salaried employees, a special bonus may be paid without destroying the employee’s exempt status.
What’s the Takeaway for Employers?
For employers with on-call needs, the bottom line as always is doing what is necessary to recruit and retain desirable employees, and to maintain employee morale. A $50 minimum may be a small price to pay for having an employee come back to his workplace at 2:00 am, rather than telling the boss the next day that his dog ate his beeper.