When does on-call time need to be compensated?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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When does on-call time need to be compensated?

We will sometimes schedule an employee to be ‘on-call,’ meaning that at a designated time, usually shift change, they are required to call the store to see if they are needed to work. If so, they are asked to be here within a reasonable amount of time. If they are not needed, nothing further is required of them and they may use the rest of the day as they see fit. Are we required to pay them and for what amount of time?

Asked on August 10, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You only need to pay the employee:
1) If and when they actually work;
2) For "on call" time if they are restricted to your office or worksite, which does not appear to the case here;
3) If you make them spend more than a de minimis (that is, minimal) amout of time on the phone--so if they just check in to see if needed, you don't need to pay them, but if you keep them on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes answering questions, reviewing what needs to be done, checking status, etc., you would need to pay for that time. (Answering questions on the phone is work.)
Simply being "on call," if not actually working or being restricted to a certain location (and so unable to do what the employee wants--i.e. unable to shop, engage in relaxation, spend time with family, etc.), is not work, and so does not need to compensated.

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