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"On-Call" And "Stand By" Labor Laws in California

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

How They Are Counted Towards Wage In California

There are several ways your work hours can be counted. There are a lot of caveats regarding time and wage, hence why there are specific policies on commissions, medical leaves, California break laws for part-time employees, etc.

In some cases, you might not be doing much at all at a specific time, only that you need to be available for the next task.

That said, let's talk about stand-by and on-call laws and how they affect your employment law rights in California.

What's The Difference Between "On-call" And "Stand-by" In California Employment Law?

Here's the definition of "on-call" and "standby", as referenced by every Employment Attorney in Los Angeles:

If you're on "stand-by" outside of your regular working hours, it implies you have to be available for work and can't do anything else with the time you're there. You get paid at your regular straight-time rate for the duration of your stand-by status.

If you are "on-call" outside your regular working hours, you must be available to work, but you are not restricted in how you utilize your time unless required to work. When you are "on-call," you are paid one-sixth of your regular income (if you are an hourly employee).

A Quick Intro To California On-call Laws

Under California Industrial Wage Order No. 4, the California Supreme Court ruled in January 2015 that employees working 24-hour shifts must be compensated for all time spent at the employer's workplace, including sleep time.

Time at the employer's work site is deemed "hours worked," for which the employee must be paid, even if the employee does nothing except wait for something to happen, according to California's Department Of Industrial Relations Division Of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). However, when an employee is off the employer's premises, a separate norm applies to on-call (stand-by) hours.

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In some instances, whether an employee's on-call time counts as "hours worked" is determined by the extent to which the employee is allowed to engage in personal activities during the on-call stand-by period and the parties' agreement.

The definition of "hours worked" is crucial, as it affects your income. If your employer fails to count payable hours, it might count as unpaid wages. Contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to help you assert your employment rights in California.

How Is On-Call Time Calculated In California?

To assess whether on-call time counts as "hours worked," the California Labor Commissioner and the courts have established the following seven-point test:

  • Whether or whether there was a requirement for on-site living

  • Whether or not employees' travels were subjected to disproportionate geographical restrictions

  • Whether the call frequency was excessively limiting

  • Is a response time limit that is set in stone too restrictive?

  • Is it possible for an on-call employee to effortlessly switch call responsibilities?

  • Is using a pager a viable option for easing restrictions?

  • Whether or not the employee had participated in personal activities during their call-in period

The more restricted an employee is, the more likely they will be compensated for on-call standby time. For example, when an employee is forced to perform a 24-hour shift and is provided with adequate sleeping quarters,

California law used to allow the employer and employee to agree to exclude up to 8 hours for designated "sleep time" as long as the employee gets at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

In other words, even if an agreement is reached, sleep time on an employer's premises cannot be excluded from hours worked. The California Supreme Court also stated that the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to exclude up to 8 hours of sleep time from the workday, did not preempt California law.

If you're having trouble getting the right salary for your hours worked, contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer to help you sort things out.

What's In It For You In These Specific California Wage And Hour Laws?

If you work in California, you should keep track of your hours (regular hours worked, overtime hours, on-call hours, hours taken off work for meals, etc.). You should do so even if you believe you are a paid employee exempt from overtime.

For example, if an employer hires a security guard to work 24 hours a day, they should pay them at least the federal minimum wage for all time spent on the job. In addition, for employees who work 24-hour shifts, employers should evaluate your company's policy for "on-call" and "sleep time", as various standards may apply depending on the industrial wage order.

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