Can your employee require you to be on-call with no pay?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can your employee require you to be on-call with no pay?

My employer non profit who provided MH services States employees have to be on call a week at a time however the employee isn’t compensated until they actually have to take a crisis call or leave to go to the home where the crisis is happening. In addition being on-call you have to take/respond to the call within 15 minutes and you’re unable to make plans or leave the area if you’re on-call. I asked if on-call was in the employee handbook and I was told I signed a job description stating that I would be on-call and services were 24 hours a day 7 days a week, however no one is being compensated for waiting to be called during a crisis when on-call.

Asked on January 24, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this is legal. While being on call does obviously put some restrictions on your movements or activities, you can still sleep; socialize; do chores; shop (as long as not too far away; or, of course, on line); watch movies or TV or read; exercise; eat at will; etc. It does not put so many restrictions on your life that it is considered the equivalent of work, and so  your employer does not need to pay you for being on-call--you only need to be paid when you respond to the call and work.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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