on call compensation
November 3, 2009 4:18 AM   Subscribe

Is it legal in the states of Massachusetts or California for a company to require its non-exempt employees to basically be on call 24/7 with no compensation? Details inside.

A company based out of California with branches in Massachusetts requires a group of non-exempt employees to respond to calls from its internal alarm system 24/7. The calls last only a few minutes, but require the employee to assess the situation and inhibit the alarm if the situation is not urgent. If the situation is urgent, the responding employee must go to the branch location and inspect. If the alarm is inhibited but the situation remains, the alarm will call again in an hour.

If and only if the employee goes the location, the employee will be paid. No compensation is offered for being on call to answer the phone, nor is compensation offered for answering the phone. However, employees get in trouble at work for not answering the phone on nights and weekends.

Is this legal? My gut feeling says no as the employees are required to maintain a condition throughout non work hours in which they are capable of responding to calls. Also, the calls require a non-negligible amount of work and definitely provide a service to the company. Taking the calls is a requirement.

Thanks for your input.
posted by mandapanda to Work & Money (2 answers total)
I can't speak for the issue of being capable of responding to calls, but actually answering the phone and assessing the situation is definitely work. If non-exempt employees are performing this work, they need to be compensated for their time. You could start by calling the Labor Departments in CA and MA in order to get an investigation started.
posted by zachlipton at 4:51 AM on November 3, 2009

California also has particular rules related to callbacks and standby time. It would appear to be a complex judgment based on the exact nature of when employees are on call, how often they are called, what restrictions are placed on their movement, etc... This DLSE opinion on the subject may be of use as well. In any case, once an employee is actually called to to do work, he/she needs to be paid.
posted by zachlipton at 4:59 AM on November 3, 2009

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