What are my rights regarding being paid for being on-call time past full-time employment hours?
Question Details: I work for a municipality. We work a full 40 hour schedule but are further required to be on-call for 40 hours of our "off time" every 5th week we work, with a mandatory 1 hour response time. This eats into my time off given that I live 40 minutes away from work and have 2 small children to take care of (as do other people). This recently was put into place without notice and is non-paid for being on-call. If we are called in we are paid OT or comp time, our choice. Is there any legal requirement for them to pay us for being on a rotating on-call schedule?
No, there is no compensation for "on-call" time since while on-call, you can eat, sleep, shop, socialize, exercise, etc.--i.e., it is your time, not your employer's time. That your particular situation may make this somewhat of a burden (your children; the 40 minute drive to to work) does not change anything, since those factors are your doing (where you live; your family and childcare set-up), not your employer's, and so the employer is not liable for them.
If a worker is actually called and has to perform their job duties, then they are always entitled to pay for that time. Furthermore, an employee is entitled to be paid for any hours over which they have little or no control (i.e. for time that they cannot spend as they choose). The more restrictions placed on them, the more likely that they are entitled to be compensated. Factors considered are: (1) how many calls the worker gets while on call (the more calls they must respond to, the more likely they are entitled to pay); (2) how long does the employee have to respond to the call (if they must report in immediately, they have an argument to be paid for the time); (3) where can the worker go while on call (if they must stay within a certain distance from work, the they are entitled to be paid); and (4) what the employee can do while on-call (so if a company sets a lot of rules for the worker, such as a banning alcohol, then they will probably have to be paid).