When Your On-Call Hours Are Compensable (Including Overtime Pay) Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

Every winning case begins with several essential ingredients. One of those is a well-written complaint filed in the correct court. If you are someone who believes that your employer has denied you the overtime pay you were legally owed, then you should get in touch with an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer, who can take the steps necessary to ensure that you have the well-written complaint and the powerful evidence you need for success.

That’s especially true if your case involves some unique facts. In some job settings, the total number of hours you worked can be fairly black-and-white. Other times it’s not, like when you’re a worker whose job mandated a certain number of “on-call” hours?

That was the circumstance for several employees of a pathology service entity in Gwinnett County. The workers put in an 8am-4pm schedule weekdays in an office in Lawrenceville. In addition, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that they had “on-call” hours, which were “from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. two or three nights a week and all weekend twice a month,” according to the workers’ lawsuit.

The workers were salaried employees, receiving between $45,000 and $50,000 annually.

To succeed in an unpaid overtime case when you were a salaried worker who put in “on-call” hours (as these employees were,) there are several crucial elements you have to include in your complaint. To be entitled to pay for on-call hours, the law says that those hours have to be genuinely not your own. If, when you’re on call, you can use your time freely and do whatever you want, then those hours aren’t compensable and cannot factor into your unpaid overtime case. On the other hand, if an employer requires on-call workers to remain at work “or so close [to the workplace] that he cannot use the time effectively for his own purposes” then those on-call hours count.

The pathology workers’ complaint said that they “were required to keep their cell phones on at all times, stay close to Gwinnett County and refrain from drinking alcohol” when on call. Some workers allegedly missed music concerts, sporting events, weddings, and baptisms because they were on call at those times. The worker’s attorney specifically said that they “were not able to freely use their time.”

Of course, none of that matters if you’re an exempt employee, as exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. The pathology workers’ lawsuit specifically alleged that they were non-exempt employees. The FLSA’s exempt employee status extends only to people who are “bona fide executive, administrative, professional or outside sales employees.”

Good-faith Violations of the Law Versus Willful Violations

The lawsuit also alleged that “an employee told [the CEO] that the investigators were entitled to overtime pay but she and the firm disregarded the information and failed to research it adequately.” Why was that important? That allegation ties into the distinction between an employer’s good-faith violation of the FLSA versus a willful violation. A court can find a violation to be willful if the employer knew or should have known its pay practices were not in compliance with the law but continued anyway. These allegations allow the workers to argue that the employer did not fix the problem despite being on notice of the potential violation. A finding of a willful violation can be very valuable as it can allow the court to award liquidated damages, which essentially amounts to doubling the damages sum awarded.

Any successful journey begins with the right first steps. Filing a well-written complaint with the right factual and legal assertions is one of those. Before even that, though, there’s something else, which is ensuring you have the right legal team on your side. The Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert have spent many years and countless hours helping workers who have been illegally underpaid in violation of the FLSA. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

Contact Information