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On Call in MA

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  • On Call in MA

    I work as a manager in a theatre lighting rental company. Since we work weekdays from 8:30-5:00 and most theatres have their shows on nights and weekends, my company instituted a policy of a 24/7 pager service.

    2 people (a coworker and I) carry these pagers. We do not get paid to carry them but we are expected to have them always. If we get paged, we contact eachother, decide who will take the call and then take care of our customer. When this happens we do get paid for it based on the number of hours we provide service.

    My problem is this. The summer is our busy season, and my boss wants to institute "on call" weekends. Therefore, I would not get paid but I would have to stay home with no plans, or rudely leave friends in the middle of things to support a customer (which I have already had to do twice).

    Does an employer have to right to force me to remain available without pay? We are not talking about simply phone suport, I must be within a 30 minute radius of my shop so that I can open it up as quickly as possible, or drive directly to a customer if the need arises.

  • #2
    Generally, if an on-call employee is free to leave the premises and is effectively free to use her time for her own purposes, then the on-call time is not compensable. BUT if there are particularly onerous restrictions on movement, a high number of calls, a required very short response time and the fact that calls are non-refusable, THEN the on-call time may be considered compensable.

    These are not easily definable questions.
    This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (

    This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.