With the recent Fair Labor Standards Act updates to employment rules, more scrutiny is being given to certain classifications of employees to make sure they are being paid properly.

One group that is often overlooked are those employees who are in an ‘on-call’ situation. Some of these employees may be answering phones in the evenings or weekends, covering emergency situations, or simply available for shift work.

Attention should be given to the unique nature of each situation. Is the employee engaged to wait? Or waiting to be engaged?

Engaged to wait is a situation that is set up by an employer. The employee is scheduled to cover phones, for example, from 8am to 5pm on a Saturday. They need to be by the phone and answer it to take messages any time it rings. They don’t have a lot of flexibility as to where they go or what they do as they wait for the phone to ring. This employee must be paid for the time that they are sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.

Waiting to engage is a situation where the employee can continue to go about their day as usual until it is necessary for them to work.  An example would be a restaurant employee waiting to be called in if the restaurant became busy. They could otherwise go about their day and possibly not even go in. It would not be necessary to pay the employee in this waiting to engage scenario.

In either case, if you have employees who would be classified as ‘on-call’ – it’s always a good idea to make sure your handbook is updated to reflect your policy for employee clarification.