Vision Payroll

August 10, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on On-Call Hours for Water District Employees

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.

March 10, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter Discussing On-call Period Compensation

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.

August 10, 2008

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on On-call Time

The US Department of Labor recently issued non-Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-8NA. 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 whether on-call time is compensable under the FLSA. A non-profit ambulance rescue service requires employees to be on-call from 6 am to 8 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm five days a week. The employee uses a pager while on-call and must respond to call with the ambulance within eight minutes. The question to be answered is whether the employee is “engaged to wait” (compensable) or “waiting to be engaged” (non-compensable). During the winter months, when there is an average of one call every four hour shift, the frequency of calls along with other factors mandated that the employees be compensated for their time. During the non-winter months, when calls were usually zero, one, or two per week, the on-call time would be non-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.

Contact Us Vision Payroll
Client Remote Access