By Brian P. Long

It is a fairly common practice for companies to have non-exempt employees available by phone at the drop of a hat to respond to emergencies and other unexpected business needs.  Yet, if the employee doesn’t actually respond to any phone calls or do anything during that time period, is the company still required to pay them for the mere possibility that their services may at some point be needed?

Any time during which employees are subject to control by the company may be “hours worked,” even though the employees don’t actually perform any work and possibly even if they are able to spend the time doing whatever they choose.

So how do companies know if the employee is under their “control” during on-call/standby time?  Like many other areas of California employment law, whether the answer to this question is yes or no turns on the employee’s specific situation.

There have to be some general rules, right?  Non-exempt employees may be on-call during unscheduled work hours to respond to calls for help from work.  On-call time can be either controlled or uncontrolled, depending on how restricted the employee is in being able to utilize the time for personal pursuits.

To be controlled or uncontrolled: That is the question.  Of course, because this is California, there is no hard and fast rule about how many times an employee’s day or evening must be interrupted or for how long that interruption can last before all of the on-call time (not just the time the employee spent dealing with the interruption) rolls into the controlled category as opposed to uncontrolled.  Factors that are considered include:
Continue Reading On Call vs. On Duty: I’m About to Lose Control and I Think I Like It!