August 10, 2009
US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on On-Call Hours for Water District Employees
Filed under: News
Vision Payroll

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-17. 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).

In this Opinion Letter, the DOL explained how the FLSA applies to certain on-call employees of a Special Services District (District). The guidelines are:

  • Employees are on-call after normal working hours. On-call hours are assigned on a rotating basis for a one-week period. Employees are on-call approximately every eight weeks, and they may switch schedules with other employees.
  • The District provides the on-call employee a mobile telephone and a vehicle with necessary tools, should they need to respond to an emergency.
  • Employees are not restricted to any location while on-call, but are expected to respond within 45 to 60 minutes of receiving an emergency call.

Travel time to the emergency locations generally runs 5-20 minutes, there are 2-5 emergency calls per month, on-call employees generally do not receive more than one call per night, and the average work time at a location is 5-10 minutes.

The DOL reached the following conclusions:

  1. The on-call employees need not be compensated for on-call time since the requirements are not so restrictive as to require compensation.
  2. Time spent working after responding to a call is time that employees must be paid for.
  3. If the employee “travels a substantial distance to an emergency site, the employee must be paid for that time. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD), however, does not take a position as to whether such travel to a regular work site is compensable. Therefore, from a WHD enforcement perspective such time is not treated as compensable.

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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