California employees may have questions about on-call shifts, financial compensation, and legal protections available to workers in the state. Here’s what you need to know about on-call shifts and compensation.
What is an on-call shift?
Unlike a regular shift in which employees have a definite work schedule, an on-call shift requires you to reserve time for work and call your employer at the last minute to determine whether you are expected to come in for the day or not. That means you will get little notice about whether or not you should show up to work on any given day though the employer expects you to be available during these hours. This is a common practice in retail and restaurants because it helps business owners and managers cut back on labor costs.
Are you entitled to pay while waiting for an employer to call you in?
In California, employers are required to compensate on-call employees for the time they spend waiting to learn if they should show up to work or not. Any time spent waiting for a call to work is considered “reporting time.” So if you don’t get to work or are sent home early, you may be entitled to some pay. Being on “standby” is the same as being on-call as per the state of California.
Travel time is also compensable under the law if the employer requires on-call workers to travel to a designated place and use designated transportation to and from the meeting place, as is on-site sleep time, which is counted towards work hours spent in the workplace and under the employer’s control.
Under California law, Wage Order 7 mandates employers to give workers reporting time pay for days that they are required to report for work. Employers must still pay on-call workers a portion of their wages if they are not called to work or assigned just less than half of their regular shift.
It covers certain workers’ rights and privileges, including:
- Reporting time and pay
- Overtime pay
- Minimum wage
- Adequate meals and break periods
On-call shifts place an undue burden on workers who are unable to accept other kinds of paid work, attend school, and make personal plans while on-call. Being on-call may also require them to pay for childcare services they would not have been needed that day.
Your employer must compensate you if:
- They expect you to wait for a call or message to see if you are needed at work that day
- You only know that you’ll be working that day or don’t get informed until a few hours before your shift
- They tell you to keep your schedule open and wait for a call
- They have asked you to watch your phone overnight or over the weekend just in case a customer calls
However, certain workers, such as CEOs and out-of-office sales reps, are exempt from compensation.
Will you get compensation even when you are not physically present?
Yes, you are entitled to compensation even if you aren’t physically present at the workplace while on-call. The California appeals court ruled in 2019 that on-call scheduling practices should come with additional pay requirements under state law.
The case had to do with retail employees who were assigned on-call shifts and were only informed that they would be working two hours ahead of the shift. The court ruled that the employees were reporting for work when they called in and should be given payment even if they decided not to show up to the store that day.
While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only considers an employee on-call when they are required to be physically present on company premises, the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor maintains that employees who are required to be on-call at home or are allowed by employers to leave a message where they can be reached are not working, there are additional constraints could entail compensation.
The 2019 ruling comes as part of a larger move to crack down on wage theft in California, as many workers may not be receiving minimum wage as a result of on-call shifts. It is estimated that workers lose millions each month to employers who do not comply with state wage requirements.
Seek compensation with an experienced employment law attorney in San Diego
If you haven’t been compensated for being on-call, you can get legal advice from Hogue & Belong Attorneys at Law. You can contact their legal experts at 619.238.4720 or send a message to inquiries(at)hoguebelonglaw(dotted)com to find out if you are entitled to additional pay.