What-It-Looks-Like-When-Youre-Illegally-On-Call-Without-Pay-Part-1.jpg (4297×2317)In California, workers are entitled to pay any time the job makes demands of their time. One of the most common violations of this law is seen in on-call policies. In the mind of an exploitative employer, staff don’t need to be paid unless they are on-site and performing assigned tasks. This leaves them free to unofficially book staff ‘on-call’ and then only call who they need at any given time. Sound familiar?

Your Time is Your Money

This tactic of on-call scheduling keeps employees hanging, waiting by the telephone with as little as 15 minutes notice before they know if, today, they’ll be called on to work or left twisting in the wind without plans or a paycheck. Some employees are kept on the hook the entire on-call period, with the chance to be called in at any point during the hours they might normally work. This is illegal.

In the eyes of the California law, any time that your employer demands that cannot be used to schedule personal activities must be paid.

If you can’t work another job, if you can’t schedule your kid’s birthday party, and if you could be fired for not waiting by the phone, your employer is officially using your time.

Today, we’re here to paint a vivid picture of what being illegally on-call is like. Not just an on-paper definition of hours and availability, but what it looks like in real life, in real workplace situations. If you see your own experience reflected in these scenarios, it’s time to examine if your time is being legally paid for. These examples are not true testimonials, but each are an amalgam of hundreds of experiences that happen to real California employees every year.

Anya in Retail

Anya works retail, but doesn’t have a set schedule of days and hours. Instead, she is always ‘on call’. She never knows if she will be working mornings or afternoons, but she is young and was okay with the uncertain schedule, so she comes in each time she is called. Until her niece’s 5th birthday party. A party she mentions to her manager two weeks ahead of time with verbal approval.

The afternoon of the party, Anya gets the call and politely declines. She knows there are other people who would be glad for the hours. She thinks everything is okay and attends her niece’s party. But after that, Anya gets far fewer calls to work. When she asks why, Anya is told that she “failed to show up for work” and had been demoted in favor of coworkers who showed more dedication. 

Anya realized then that her ‘on-call’ time wasn’t really her own if she could be penalized for scheduling a family event. After some research online, she confirmed this was an illegal practice and contacted an employment lawyer to address her employer’s abuses that undoubtedly extended beyond her own experiences.

Roy in Customer Service

Roy is physically handicapped and recently found a new job where he can work from home. It sounded like a dream job. Customer service through a digital phone line that connected through his computer. Roy’s job would be to answer the phone when customers called with questions about the company or product. He would need to have high-speed internet and be available at his workstation during a set number of hours. The hourly rate was better than he expected and, doing the math, he could pay all his bills based on his set hours and the rate he’d be paid.

Roy passed the video-chat interview with flying colors and got the job on the spot. He immediately memorized the handbook and was ready at his computer at 7 AM Monday. Roy worked 7 AM to 9PM every day for the next week (lunch excluded), and was dedicated to the work. The calls weren’t steady and sometimes he had as much as two hours between one call and the next. He used this time to study-up on policy, customer service technique, and take care of a few online personal tasks.

However, when Roy’s first paycheck came in, it was for less than a third of the hours he’d put in. When Roy brought this up to his manager, surely an accounting error, he was told that money was for the hours they’d clocked him being on the phone with a customer. Not for the hours he’d been required to sit at his desk waiting for the phone to ring. Roy suspected this was BS and called his buddy who had a lawyer brother who assured him that this practice was illegal if he wasn’t allowed to be away from the desk during this time.

[Continued in Part 2]

Leave a Reply

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986