March 10, 2009
US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter Discussing On-call Period Compensation
Filed under: News
Vision Payroll

The US Department of Labor recently issued non-Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-14NA. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Unlike signed Opinion Letters, unsigned Opinion Letters do not “provide a potential good faith reliance defense for violations of the FLSA.”

This Opinion Letter discusses three points:

  1. The restrictions an employer can impose during an on-call period.
  2. Whether an employer is responsible for compensation when restrictions are imposed.
  3. If the number of call-backs is a factor in determining if the on-call period is compensable.

Compensation for on-call periods is a question of facts and circumstances particular to each case. Generally, however, on-call time is compensable “when the on-call conditions are so restrictive or the calls so frequent that the employee cannot effectively use that time for personal purposes.” Carrying a pager or being required to report to work within a specified time period are usually not restrictions that require compensation.

The number of call-backs is a factor in determining if the on-call period is compensable. One court ruled that four or five calls per week was not enough to require compensation, while another court ruled an average of three to five calls in a twenty-four hour period was enough to require compensation for the on-call period.

Since the only restrictions that the employer in this case imposed were that the “employee must be reachable at all times, abstain from alcohol or other substances, and report to work within one hour of notification” and because call-backs were rare, the restrictions did not require compensation during the on-call period under the FLSA.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.


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