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2024 California On-Call and Standby Time Policy Explained

Posted on May 26, 2023 | Employment Law

State law provides strong employee protections, especially regarding wage and hour laws. These laws include protections and regulations for compensation when non-exempt employees are “on call” or on “standby” for their work. Depending on the circumstances of your on-call work, you may be entitled to at least the minimum wage for those hours. These hours also factor into determining overtime pay. If the employee is subject to a certain amount of control by the employer while on standby, they are owed compensation.

Understanding On-Call and Standby Time

On-call or standby time refers to time that is not spent working but is still under an employer’s control, as the employee is unable to use that time off work to do things they’d like to do. Often, this time refers to unusual hours in certain fields. This includes:

  • Healthcare staff who are required to work for multiple days and remain at the hospital during their shifts
  • Healthcare staff who need to be at work within a specified time after they are called in
  • Security guards who remain on premises for several days
  • Coroners who need to be available within a certain amount of time after a death
  • Firefighters who are on-site at the station for several days

Although these workers are not actively working, they can’t use their time to do other things because they need to be ready to work at any moment.

Are Employees Entitled to On-Call and Standby Pay in California?

If an employee is engaged to work, and subject to the employer’s control, they are entitled to pay for each hour worked. This pay does not have to be their usual rate, but it can’t be less than the minimum wage. Any “hours worked” must be under sufficient employer control, which is determined by several factors.

How On-Call and Standby Pay Is Determined

Even if an employee is doing non-work-related activities, they may still be considered controlled by their employer. Whether an employer’s control is significant enough to warrant pay depends on these factors:

  1. An employee is required to live at the work site, or there are excessive geographical restrictions on their movement. If the employee isn’t allowed to go far from work, this may be considered an excessive restriction.
  2. The employee received frequent calls to work. An employee who receives few calls to work may not be entitled to compensation. If the employee receives frequent calls that are unduly restrictive, and prevent the use of on-call time for other reasons, their employer is controlling their time, and they should receive compensation.
  3. The employee must respond within a fixed time, which is unduly restrictive. If an employee must respond to a standby call in a short period of time, their time is significantly controlled by the employer.
  4. The employee cannot easily trade on-call time with a coworker. If an employee sees negative consequences for getting a coworker to complete the on-call duties, this on-call time is considered controlled by the employer.
  5. The employee is engaged in personal activities while on call. If there isn’t much interruption during these activities, and the employee’s time is not primarily spent on work, the on-call time will likely not be entitled to pay.

The impact of these factors varies based on the specific circumstances. Generally, the more control an employee’s employer has over their time, the more likely they are to be entitled to compensation for it.

What You Can Do If You Aren’t Being Compensated for Standby or On-Call Time

If you work standby or on call, and believe you should be receiving compensation for some or all of your time, you can file a claim. If your employer isn’t paying you and should be, this is a violation of wage and hour laws. You can file with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or with a civil court. You could earn compensation for lost wages. These claims frequently become class action claims, as an employer failing to pay one on-call employee is likely doing the same with other employees.

If you plan to file a claim, first discuss your situation with a wage and hour attorney. That way, you can determine if your claim is valid and how much of your work you should’ve been compensated for. An attorney can also help you file your claim, gather evidence, and find others who have experienced the same wage and hour violations.

FAQs

Q: What Is the Policy for On-Call and Standby Time and Pay in California?

A: If an employer exerts significant control over the employee’s time, the employee is entitled to compensation. There is likely significant employer control over an employee’s time if they must:

  • Respond to a call within a short period of time.
  • Be within a certain distance of the worksite.
  • Live on the worksite.
  • Be frequently called into work.

Q: What Is On-Call and Standby Pay in California?

A: If an employer has control over an employee’s time for some or all the on-call hours, that employee is entitled to compensation. Their pay does not have to be the same as their regular rate of pay, but it cannot be less than the minimum wage. Any time that the employee is required or permitted to work, even if not required, should be compensated.

Q: What Is the Law for On-Call Hours in California?

A: Being an on-call or standby worker means that you are not actively working but need to be available to work. How you use your time while on standby is up to you, unless you are required to work. If you can’t use your time as you want, then your employer has control over your time and owes you compensation. This type of work often applies to employees with odd hours, such as healthcare workers who work several-day-long shifts or security guards who remain on-site for several days.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Being “On Call” and Being on Standby?

A: Being “on call” and being on “standby” refer to the same thing in the California Labor Code. Both refer to hours when an employee is not actively working or completing job duties but must be available to do so. If the employee can’t use their time as they want to a certain extent, the employer is exerting control over their time, and they are owed compensation.

Legal Assistance With Wage and Hour Violations

If you believe your employer isn’t paying you the wages you’re owed, you should work with an experienced San Diego employment lawyer. Contact Nosratilaw, A Professional Law Corporation, today to determine your legal options.

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