Unpaid Wages: Compensation for On-Call Time

Unpaid Wages: Compensation for On-Call Time

Employers often think they are entitled to have their employees “on-call” and do not have to pay them for such time so long as the employee is not performing any work during the on-call time. This is incorrect, and Massachusetts has specific laws governing the compensation of on-call time. They are as follows:

On-call Time: All on-call time is compensable working time unless the employee is not required to be at the work site or another location, and is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes.

(1) An employee required to be on duty at the work site for less than 24 hours is working even if the employee is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy.

(2) Where an employee is required to be on duty at the worksite for 24 hours or more, the employer and employee may agree in writing prior to performance of the work to exclude bona fide meal periods and a bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than eight hours from working time, provided the employer provides adequate sleeping quarters and the employee can enjoy an uninterrupted period of sleep. If no prior written agreement is made, sleeping time and meal time will constitute compensable working time. If the sleeping period is interrupted by a call to duty, all time on duty must be counted as working time. If the sleeping period is interrupted to such an extent that the employee cannot get a reasonable period of sleep, the entire period must be counted as working time.

(3) If an employee resides on an employer’s premises on a permanent basis or for extended periods of time, not all time spent on the premises is considered working time. The employer and the employee may make any reasonable written agreement as to hours worked which takes into consideration all of the pertinent facts; provided, however, that the employee shall be compensated for all time in which job-related duties are actually performed, and on-call
time shall be compensated unless the employee is not required to be at the work site or another location, and is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes.

If you are not receiving compensation for on-call time worked, contact Attorney Adam Shafran to learn more about your rights.

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