What It Looks Like When You’re Illegally On-Call Without Pay - Part 2 Aiman-Smith & Marcy
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What It Looks Like When You’re Illegally On-Call Without Pay – Part 2

[Continued from Part 1]

Carmen in Nursing

Carmen works as a nurse in an urban emergency clinic. She often works back-to-back shifts and usually doesn’t mind because she is passionate about helping people. But after a management restructuring somewhere far above Carmen’s position, her manager began to ask for her to stay “on-call” between shifts and during shifts where she wasn’t scheduled.

Carmen has never had a problem jumping in to help when necessary and she knew that the doctors often worked on-call with pay for their time, even if they were catching a nap in the on-call room. So Carmen agrees to stay a few extra hours each week in the on-call room or catch up on her reading in the break room in case she is needed on the busiest nights or in an emergency.

But when she checks her paycheck at the end of the month, those hours aren’t listed. When she brings this up to her manager, the manager shrugs and says she wasn’t working during that time, and so wasn’t paid. Carmen knew her rights, and that the doctors were paid for their on-call time, and immediately took the issue to an employment lawyer. 

George in Construction

George works on a road crew with 10 to 50 other guys on any given project. But his employer has this funny way of managing the schedule. Every day, George needs to call in to indicate whether he’s available or work or not. George figures this is just a way to get a headcount for the day and call in the guys who got enough sleep, aren’t hungover, and so on. Hours were tight and George needed the money, so he called in every day and took what jobs were available.

After a week of no work, despite calling in and being ready, George starts applying for other jobs. On the morning of an interview with a more reliable employer, he chooses not to call in. After all, he’s not available.

Apparently, word got out through friends of friends who knew about his job search. When George called in the next day, he was told that he was on warning for violating his mandatory call-in and seeking other work. This revealed to George that his on-call time, even though they hadn’t given him hours for a whole week, wasn’t his own. And he heard that this had happened to other guys too, but was being kept quiet. 

George started talking to his buddies and realized that everyone was being kept on the hook and prevented from working other jobs even though they were being paid less than steady wages. Together, they decided to go see an employment lawyer about wage and hour abuses.

These are four different examples in four different industries that are all notorious for abusing the on-call employment law in California. If your time isn’t your own and you are required to be ready and willing to work during a scheduled time, you are officially working for your employer. And if these scenarios remind you of something you’ve experienced or heard about from a colleague, it may be time to consult with an employment lawyer and determine your legal options.

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we hear tragic stories like those of Anya, Roy, Carmen, and George every day. Our legal team is dedicated to defending exploited workers and holding abusive employer accountable for both direct and indirect violations of employment law. If your employer is abusing on-call policies by keeping employees on the hook without paying for their time, please contact us today. We would love to hear from you and consult on your legal options for justice and fair pay.